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Hi All,

The first blog of 2015 and a belated Happy New Year to you all.

Not too bad a Christmas weather-wise, save for 2 particularly heavy rain periods, one of which turned to snow on Boxing Day and meant that I missed out on my Paddy Power – White Christmas bets by less than a day, Bah Humbug and all that.

December 2014 was also a colder month than previous, with 13 recordedfrost2 frosts, down to -6°C, compared with just 3 milder frosts in December 2013. Good news really when you consider the beneficial effect frosts have on the soil and more importantly on naturally lowering pathogen activity. They also look brilliant. Yesterday it was like someone had airbrushed everything with white, sparkling paint as I was out walking, simply beautiful and a great set-me-up for the coming week and the return to work 🙁

As we start January and trying to be positive, it’s worth commenting that we are officially on the way to spring with the sun beginning to rise higher in the sky, as this pic taken over a beautiful, frosty and misty Eyebrook Reservoir using Sunseeker 3D shows, …the blue is the lowest arc of the sun at The Winter Solstice, the yellow was yesterday’s arc.

sunseeker04012015

So onto the weather…..

General Weather Situation

As we start the week we have a pretty settled day to kick off, with light south-westerly winds, frost-free (if you had cloud cover) and dry. As we move through Monday, the west coast of Scotland starts to pick up some showers and these move south down the coast into England and Wales through the afternoon. By late afternoon, a band of rain is into Connacht and west Munster, pushing eastwards over Ireland, overnight. The rain also intensifies on the western coastline of the U.K during the night and slowly pushes inland. Temperatures will be high-single figures, so not bad really and not dipping much during the night either.

So by the time we start Tuesday we have a wet picture over Scotland, Leinster and the western half of the U.K. During the morning, this rain moves eastwards clearing Ireland and most of Scotland as it does so, to leave brighter, clearer weather behind. The wind remains south-westerly and so keeps temperatures up, just shy of double figures for most, however with those clear skies it’ll be a colder night, with a touch of ground frost in places.

By mid-week we have an intense low pressure system starting to influence the weather, so you’ll notice it’ll get windier for starters, though those winds will remain in the south-west initially. By the morning rush hour we have a heavy rain front into Ireland and Scotland and this will move south and eastwards during the morning, so some heavy rain for Ireland, Scotland , north-west England and Wales by lunchtime. By the evening, this rain has cleared most of Scotland and Ireland, but remains over northern England, Wales and central regions. Temperatures similar to earlier in the week, but it’ll be noticeably windier.

Overnight into Thursday that rain will situate over southern England, so a wet start to the day here.  Elsewhere save for some rain over north-west Scotland, it’ll be a dry start to the day for most, but won’t remain so for long as rain pushes into Connacht, Leinster, Wales and the north-west coast of England in time for the morning rush hour. Some of this rain will be heavy, with blustery showers forming in the strong westerly / north-westerly wind. Temperatures will be a little down on the beginning of the week, as the wind direction changes to the north-west. It’ll still be very windy.

Closing out the week, we have a repeat play of Wednesday’s weather, i.e a dry start, but heavy rain pushing into Ireland and Scotland from the start of the day, to round out a pretty wet week for you guys I’m afraid. Further south we won’t see that rain till later in the day as it pushes across country, but as the wind swings round to the west, it’ll feel noticeably milder, with temperatures up in the double figures by the end of Friday. It’ll still be really, really windy, gale force in places, so take care if you’re out and about.

The weekend looks unsettled and remaining windy at this stage, mild initially on Saturday, but as those winds swing round to the north-west, it’ll turn cooler. Continuing the pattern of the week, for Scotland, Ireland, Wales and western coasts of England, it’ll be wet, with frequent showers or heavier bursts of rain. Further south and east, it’ll be drier and for a time, it’ll feel really pleasant, but expect showers during the day. By close of play Saturday, it’ll be noticeably cooler though as the winds strengthen from the north-west and more rain will push through, continuing through Sunday with the unsettled theme, particularly for the north and west.

 Weather Outlook

As you can see from the Unisys graphic at the top of the blog, we have high pressure sitting to the south of us and a cold, intense low pressure system above. From the start of next week it looks like the low will win the day and that means colder, with an increased risk of wintry showers, especially over Scotland and the north of England. Rainfall-wise, it looks like blustery showers until mid-week, next week when a potentially heavy pulse of rain looks to push into Ireland and the south-west of England, before tracking eastwards over the U.K. The only benefit from the windy nature of the weather is that it will move any rain / wintry showers through quite quickly.

Agronomic Notes

Rainfall Totals

Just a reminder that we will be collating our usual annual rainfall totals for 2014 into map form, so if you can wang them through, that would be great. The email address they need to go to is ; weather@headlandamenity.com

We will cut off the data consolidation on Friday 16th January to give Paul a chance to knock it into shape.

2014 – A quick look back

GDDmonthlycomparisonJantoDec2010to2014image

GDDmonthlycumulativeJantoDec2010to2014image

As you can see from the collated GDD data, 2014 turned out to be a reasonably ‘normal’ year temperature-wise with a good start to spring, a hot July, a cool, wet August, a super-dry September and then another very mild end to the year with record temperatures for October in particular. From a GDD perspective, 2014 just shaded 2011 as the warmest year since we started this work.

Rainfall-wise we have greater variability across the U.K and Ireland, but we started extremely wet and then endured two trough events in the jet stream that caused a cool, wet May and August.  When it’s mild at the back end of the year, it’s invariably wet and that’s how 2014 played out and in fact 2015 has started !

Organic Matter Control – Use January if the weather plays ball

We know that there’s plenty of pressure on clubs to minimise the impact of aeration on the revenue stream, the same goes for topdressing. We also know that less aeration is false economy because it will catch up with you eventually.

For example, in the future if we have less effective Microdochium fungicides available, reducing organic matter and thereby providing less of a favourable environment for disease development will be one of the important spokes in the wheel for reducing the impact of disease on your turf. One of the ways to tick both boxes is to try and aerate ‘out of season’ and for me January is a prime month, ‘if’ and it can be a big ‘if’, the weather plays ball.

Back and Front Tees

These are a pain in the butt when you think about it as they don’t get a lot of play, but have to be presented well alongside the ‘in play’ teeing areas. January is a great month to hollow core these areas with some meaty tines, leave them open and give them a chance to breath. You can see from the GDD data above, that there’s only been one cold January (2010) in the last 5 years and often January is milder then February, traditionally the coldest month of the year I think.

Greens

If you know that your greens are getting softer and you are struggling to get your club to ‘give you’ aeration slots, then if the weather plays ball (And here we are mainly talking about rainfall prior to and during the work), January presents a great opportunity to hollow core surfaces. Ok I accept it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get a topdressing in, but what’s the difference between making holes with a vertidrain for example or a 1/2 ” hollow corer, the answer is that you’re removing fibre with the latter and that is key.

My experience has been that January coring ticks lots of positive boxes, you remove fibre, clubs and golfers are less likely to complain about a surface in January than they are in March or April and you often have the surface back before things get busy in the spring.

You could then skip a microtine in the spring, (which removes very little fibre anyway) replace it with a good scarification and then try and persuade the club that August is the best month to aerate and gain swift recovery. On that subject we can use GDD data to make a convincing argument on why August is the best month to aerate and gain fast recovery.

Late Summer / Autumn Aeration – What GDD tells us

Taking the GDD data above and averaging it out for August to November over the last 5 years, we can see the following ;

Month                                   August            September        October

Average GDD Total              325.4                 245.0                  180.4

In essence what this shows is that there’s a 25% reduction in growth potential if we compare September with August, so that means it’ll take longer to recover surfaces. If we wait until October to aerate, this reduction in growth potential increases to 45% vs. August.

In plain and simple English, the later you leave it, the longer it takes to get a surface back. In addition, we know the trend is also for milder and wetter October’s, so this makes it much harder to get good aeration done and furthermore, to topdress, knowing that disease activity is at its potential highest.

So bite the bullet, aerate out of season if a slot presents itself and make sure your club sees the benefit of doing so. Who knows it might just convince them to give August a trial as well ? I appreciate that the weather has to play ball and for the west and north this isn’t as likely because of rainfall patterns, but it’s worth a thought.

All the best for the coming year and remember to send that rainfall data in if you could please 🙂

Mark Hunt