My first blog of March and a welcome one to say we’ve turned the corner into spring on the calendar if not with the weather as some places had more snow yesterday and most, plenty of rain.
This week we are going to be sandwiched between a northerly low pressure and a warm Azores high so that means the weather will split into two, colder and wetter in the north, warmer and drier (but still with some rain) in the south. Temperatures as predicted last week will nudge up nicely into double figures only I think for a cold low pressure to re-assert itself over the weekend and take us all into a cooler and wetter interlude. Changeable the weather is at present…. 🙁 Bah humbug I say ….
So let’s put some detail on the coming week and the weekend…
Monday looks to start dry for a good deal of the U.K and Ireland save for some snow over The Highlands and a pulse of rain, sleet and snow pushing into south west Munster and south west England. During the morning those wintry showers over The Highlands will sink south bringing rain to Central Scotland and that south westerly rain will push north across the western side of Ireland, so mainly Munster and Connacht affected and Leinster keeps it’s toes dry 🙂
For England and Wales that band of slow moving rain in the south west will move slowly up towards Bristol and across to the Isle of Wight, with South Wales just picking up some light showers. During the afternoon that Irish rain finally crosses eastwards into Leinster to end the day wet over most of the country. For the U.K we see an improving picture during the afternoon as the rain moves off and becomes confined to West Wales, the rain clears Scotland and we see the sun there and across The Midlands and northern England (which makes a change recently). The southern half of the U.K looks to retain quite a bit of cloud cover so not such a nice end to the day there. Temperature-wise I’d expect to see it stay on the cool side after a cool start to the day, so 7-9°C and a moderate north westerly wind but a drying one importantly.
Rolling along to Tuesday and with a clear sky in places I think we’ll see a ground frost in places but that means a nice dry start to the day for all areas. With such a mixed weather picture it won’t last though and we’ll soon see rain push into the west of Ireland, falling as sleet and snow over the mountains of Donegal push in and move eastwards, covering the whole country by lunchtime. For the afternoon, that rain breaks up into showers over Ireland with the heaviest rain across the north and west. For the U.K, a dry first half of the day pretty much all over, but by lunchtime that rain has crossed the Irish Sea and is into the west coast of England, Wales and Scotland, falling as a mix of wintry showers over elevation. During the afternoon this rain will push eastwards into The Midlands and central regions but I expect the east coast to stay dry till dusk. So a pretty wet end to Tuesday for most. Again staying cool with temperatures in a similar range to Monday 7-9°C, maybe a little higher for Ireland and still with that moderate to gusty north westerly wind in situ.
Onto Wednesday and that overnight rain will be heavy across the U.K clearing to the east by dawn, but we will see still see rain across the east and south east and it’ll be slow to clear. At the same time expect some rain and wintry showers into the north west of Scotland. Ireland looks to start dry on Wednesday. During the morning there may be some showers flirting with the south coast of Munster and Leinster but that looks about it for you guys. For the U.K, a much drier day on Wednesday but that rain that clipped the Irish coast will move into the south west of England by lunchtime and track along the south coast of England. Through the afternoon we will see some breaks in the cloud over Ireland, Scotland and the north of England, but they’ll also be rain around for Munster, the south coast of England and north west of Scotland. Through the evening that rain will push north into The Home Counties, The Midlands and East Anglia. Another feature of Wednesday is a more westerly aspect to the wind later on so temperatures will push into double figures across Ireland, England and Wales, with only Scotland staying in single figures.
Onto Thursday and they’ll still be rain around across South Wales, the south west and southern half of England, but most of it will clear through the morning. Ireland looks to start off dry but dull, however through the day this cloud will break, temperatures will rise and you’ll have a sunshine and showers type of day I think. The same for the south of England, mild with some showers around, but for The Midlands, the north of England and the bulk of Scotland (save for those persistent wintry showers affecting the north west), it’ll be a drier day with some extended periods of sunshine and some showers. Most likely the warmest day of the week, I expect temperatures to push up well into double figures, low to even mid-teens in places, so proper spring like in a moderate to light westerly wind 🙂
Closing out the week on Friday, I’d love to say that we are set fair for a nice end to the week and a pleasant weekend but it won’t be I am afraid 🙁 Overnight rain, some of it heavy moves into and across Ireland and by dawn this will be into the south west of England, South Wales and the south of England and it’ll track north and east through Friday morning. So Scotland and the north of England will start dry but by mid-morning I’d expect that rain to be across northern England and into The Borders, falling as wintry showers again over elevation. By lunchtime that rain and thick cloud is across Ireland, Wales and England and the south of Scotland, with only The Highlands and north east of Scotland dry. By dusk we have a full covering of rain, thick cloud and increasingly wintry showers over The Pennines and Scotland, so a pretty cack end to the week really. Temperatures down on Thursday but still remaining in double figures but that cooler, north westerly wind returns I’m afraid so still in single figures in Scotland.
So as intimated at the start of this blog, the weekend doesn’t look fantastic sitting here on a Monday morning, but the weather may just conspire to prove us wrong as it did on Saturday last weekend. So I think the feature of the weekend will be a low pressure system rattling in to bring packed isobars, a north westerly wind and plenty of rain across the west and north, but also further south as well. It’ll be a blustery, wet day with temperatures, cooler in the north and Midlands but hanging on further south into double figures and this is where you may see the drier weather on Saturday. A sunshine and showers day for sure on Saturday. Sunday looks drier and duller because the wind swings round more northerly / north easterly and that’ll pull in cloud from The North Sea, so potentially drier, but cooler / duller on Sunday as high pressure tries to make an entrance stage left.
So is there any let up on the horizon for our wet March theme ?
Well possibly on a temporary type basis because next week looks like we may start with high pressure in place and that means stable conditions and above all dry for Monday and most of Tuesday but we have a low pressure entering in from The Atlantic so I expect that to push us back towards a more windy, unsettled and cool theme from Wednesday onwards next week. Since the low pressure system will be over the west and north it could end up being a re-run of this week for the latter part of next, i.e cooler and wetter in the north, slightly drier and milder in the south with less rain. Plenty of time for this outlook to change though as I’ve always said, long-term forecasts are for la-la land.
It’s interesting though because the shape of the jet stream is pretty much identical to last year with a strongly pronouned ‘L’ pattern and that gave us a very wet and a cool March in 2016 and looks like doing the same this year.
Ok since this is the first blog of March, it’s time to look back at how February fared for us in terms of growth and rainfall, so let’s start off with the GDD stats for our Thame location.
So the first thing that should be apparent is how mild February was as a month compared to when we first started logging monthly GDD at this location back in 2010. A total GDD of 51 for the month is 25% higher than the best February to date back in 2011and 4 x warmer than the preceding month. Cumulatively for the year we are well up there but before you get excited I don’t expect March to tear the sheets off (can I say that?) GDD-wise.
Putting a bit more detail for the U.K and Ireland (and of course many thanks to all the contributors that make this comparison possible, so much appreciated at my end I can tell you) Here’s how we look around the U.K and Ireland ;
A definite north / south divide when it comes to GDD with Scotland, the north and The Midlands on a par from that perspective, whereas the south of the U.K, Guildford and Devon are 50% higher in terms of temperature / growth. Not so rainfall with a clear indication that February’s rainfall came in from the south west because Devon came out the wettest at 96mm for the month and Thame, the driest.
Looking at Ireland, further evidence of that south westerly rain tracking with Valentia (no surprises eh lads?) coming out the wettest, but look at the difference between Cork and Dublin, nearly 2x the rainfall in Cork vs. Dublin and that’s because of that south westerly rain movement pushing below and to the west of Leinster.
GDD-wise, similar figures to the U.K really (which kind of goes against the Irish authorities viewpoint that the climate is so different in Ireland vs. the U.K) with a good growth month despite the rainfall.
Patterns of growth – February 2017
So let’s see how the grass grew in January through February bearing in mind the latter was such a mild month ;
Above I have compared Fife with Guildford and you can see some interesting data. Although Fife showed lower growth than Guildford overall, there were periods of the January and February when it was milder in this area of Scotland and the grass was growing better than it was in Guildford, 450 miles odd further south.
Both locations showed good growth through February with strong growth at the beginning and mid-end of February.
Just to put things in perspective, the G.P reading of 0.75 on the 20th February, 2017 in Guildford was higher than we saw through any day of January, February, March and April 2016 and wasn’t topped till mid-May 2016 !
Looking at two locations in Ireland across January and February, we see a similar pattern of growth, but with slightly lower daily peaks. Again the heady heights of the third week of February saw stronger growth in Ireland than we saw on any day for the first four months of last year.
What this means is that February 2017 was a better growth month than March 2016 and similar to April 2016 and I wouldn’t bet against it being better than March 2017 either.
What can we take from this data ?
Well it’s back to that old cheshnut again and that’s early year aeration.
I know, I know it doesn’t work for all sites because of patterns of play, club policies, rainfall, ground conditions, labour, resources and the like, but you can’t argue with the facts if these don’t apply to your site.
The facts are that we are now getting consistent growth in January and February and on the flipside March and April are almost an extension of winter with cooler temperatures and wind patterns in particular not conducive to good, consistent growth.
So if all of the above are in place then we have to change our way of thinking from the traditional March / April aeration slots and maybe do the work earlier ?
There’s also a trend to do more work earlier, get more aeration done in that window if it’s available and that means less disruption later in the season. It doesn’t mean that you do all of your aeration and then nothing because it’s imperative that we keep the surface free-draining and topdress through the season, but the bulk the organic matter removal can be done in one operation and the greens put to bed to recover before the main spring play starts.
I know a number of clubs that have scarified, double cored and applied close to 100mt of topdressing in January 2017 and are now well on their way to recovery.
Granular applications provide more consistent growth early on…
The growth during January and February is I think definitely more suited to granular rather than foliar applications, because they are more consistent, deliver their nutrients more efficiently under higher rainfall incidences and in so doing bring you into March stronger, so less nutrient has to be applied then to push sward density.
Ok I’d like to chat more about that concept but the phone messages and emails are mounting so I’ll have to draw a line under the blog until next week…
All the best..