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  • Writer's pictureMark Hunt

December 12th

Hi All,

Well after 5 consecutive days of hard frosts, we now have snow in places and a possible tricky situation to manage come the weekend when there is a likelihood of milder temperatures and rain falling onto snow on top of frozen ground. I'll cover this in the blog because it needs some managing and some clear communication. You know the scenario, course is closed, rain melts snow, course looks clear, people want to play golf, top surface starts to thaw on top of frozen lower layer. Top turns to mush, people end up on their collective backsides and no one wins, except the litigators.

It may look pretty but yesterday's Hoar Frost put the grass plant under a little more pressure. Hoar frost forms when water vapour in the air comes in contact with surfaces that are already below freezing. Ice crystals form in intricate patterns. The word 'Hoar' comes from the old English word 'Har' which means 'hoary, gray, venerable, old' and perhaps referred to the appearance of ice crystals resembling a beard on an old man.

Can you imagine the effect of lots of feet walking these ice crystals into the grass plant leaf ?

So the talk is of milder weather arriving at the weekend and just maybe ending my hopes of a White Christmas winning bet on William Hill :(

Nature is on its back foot in this weather and you can tell the birds are hungry. My arrival at the kitchen door in the morning is greeted with enthusiastic hoops from the resident contingent of Blackbirds, expectant of some suet sprinkles and mealworms. If I don't feed them immediately, I get the cold, steely gaze of one particular individual who has taken to landing on the door handle and peering in. This was him earlier in the year.

This morning, I have had Blackbirds, Starlings, Robin, Hedge and House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Greenfinch, Blue, Great and Coal Tits and the obligatory Pigeons (green laser works well though as a deterrent) all visiting and geez they are clearing me out of bird food at quite a rate !

On a negative note, I was sadly right about my Hedgehog visitor that I spotted last week on my Spypoint camera. I found it malnourished and frozen round the corner from my house, so sad. This one had been 'returned' to the environment this autumn by a local Wildlife Centre. I know they do a brilliant job looking after sick and abandoned animals but I think they could do well to understand nature better. It shouldn't have been released in my view this late in the year.

General Weather Situation - w/c 12th December, 2022

So this week we look to retain the cold air mass extending over from Scandinavia for the entire week and that means a continuation of the hard night frosts and a chance of some further snow ingression inland. These snow showers are really hard to predict. Last night we saw a swirl of showers push in from The Channel to effect the south, south east and east of England. It wasn't on any forecasts that I saw.

If I was to hazard a guess, I'd say Tuesday could bring further snow showers to the south west of England and maybe the south coast, but it is so tricky to say. Later in the week, Friday, may see some significant snowfall for Scotland. The week promises to be mainly dry with the outlook likely to be sunnier from Tuesday onwards for areas north of the south coast of England. With clear skies, the hardest frosts are likely to come from Tuesday onwards I'd say. So far I've recorded -6.9°C on the Davis weather stations I'm monitoring but I think we could go lower on Thursday / Friday.

Ireland may pick up some rain / wintry showers along the south east coast on Tuesday but I think it'll 'enjoy' a cold week with a continuation of night frost, though not as cold as across The Irish Sea. The same for Wales and The South West. The coldest air mass will be along eastern coasts and across the snowfields formed after this weekend. Scotland could see further snow showers across the north west and north east but in general it's just going to be plain cold and I think for most it'll be 10 days of consecutive frosts and hard ones at that.

The significant change looks to come on Sunday at the moment with the wind turning round to the south west and heralding the arrival of milder temperatures and rain on Sunday morning. This rain could be heavy and with it falling on frozen ground, we could see flooding as effectively it will be creating a suspended water table until it thaws. More on that later.

This front of rain will push into the south west of Ireland and England just after dawn on Sunday. (though as we get nearer to the event I'm sure the timing will change) The rain will then push up north and east during Sunday across Ireland, Wales and the south / south west of England. The further east it goes, the more likely the leading edge of this front will turn to snow before changing to sleet and finally rain. Currently it is expected to take most of the day to reach The North East and Scotland. As the rain looks to reasonably heavy, I think it'll result in flooding across many areas, albeit temporary in nature. So Sunday looks like being a wet one and potentially a tricky travelling day as that leading front may turn to snow.

Weather Outlook - w/c 19th December, 2022

So at present Sunday looks the change day and that milder air and rain will be accompanied by something we haven't had much of for awhile and that's wind. I was listening today to the BBC News and their correspondent was commenting about the lack of power generation from wind during December. it's also been pretty dull at times so solar won't be much cop either. Renewables are great but not in the middle of a cold, dull spell, mid-winter.

So next week looks to start off milder and wetter, certainly for the southern half of the U.K and possibly the southern most tip of Ireland. Windy from the south west and wet I think but away from this area of rain, the rest of the U.K and Ireland look predominantly dry. Tuesday looks like more rain for the southern half of the U.K and showers for Ireland and dropping cooler as the wind shifts to north westerly. This wet and unsettled pattern of weather continues through Wednesday and Thursday, with a return to milder south westerly winds before a brief hiatus on Friday as the rain passes and the wind drops. Not for long though as another low pressure pushes through on Friday and then its trailing edge pulls in colder, northerly air.

Now the forecast for Christmas itself is caveat-laden as we have a very variable airstream kicking in once this cold spell passes on Sunday, so I think this forecast will change as we get closer to Christmas Day itself. This leaves us finely-balanced for Christmas Eve with the chance of some wintry showers maybe and colder air for Christmas Day itself, especially up north. Now did I put a bet on Glasgow and Edinburgh airports ? 😊

Agronomic Notes

Well we have some practical issues to contend with looking at where we are today and might be in a weeks time.

The first concerns the thorny question of dealing with greens as the frost is coming out.

Lots of viewpoints here and lets be specific, I am not talking about playing on frosty greens, I am talking about the process of playing on surfaces as the frost is coming out.

First up, let's clearly understand the weather situation that is coming.....

Here is some output from Meteoblue, my absolutely fav weather company 👍😃

It's their 14-day Meteogram and I have highlighted two pertinent aspects ;

The first is the significant rise in temperature expected / forecast over Sunday into Monday as that milder air arrives on a south westerly wind. The second is the probability that this rise in temperature will be accompanied by rainfall. The forecast has a 75-80% likelihood that this will be the case for my location, Market Harborough. That is good enough for me.

Ground conditions

So I decided to write a piece specifically on this area for those of you who may want / feel the need to communicate this to management and / or members. A preview is shown below and should it be of interest, you can download it here.

The dynamics of a sudden thaw caused by a combination of rising temperature and rainfall are quite straight-forward. As the surface thaws it will become unstable and foot traffic will cause the upper, thawed, surface layer to slip over the still-frozen layer beneath. This will cause damage to the grass plant's root system and literally turn the surface to mush. It will also present a significant health & safety hazard so have your risk assessments handy :)

I was given a reminder over the weekend when I decided to go for a run after a chance motivational meeting with a good friend in Sainsbury's (Cheers Steg). He'd already been out for a run bright and early whilst everything was still frozen but you know I'm not a morning exercise type of person. It just takes me awhile to build up by exercise mojo. So at lunchtime there I was running along a crisp canal towpath in the winter sunshine and reasonably happy when I decided to go cross country across 2 previously ploughed and sown fields. Well, I'd only gone 20m or so before I knew it was a mistake. I was sliding all over the place and my running shoes began to resemble clods of mud and boy were they heavy. I muttered to myself that I'd been hoisted by my own petard. I kind of knew it would be like this but did it anyway. That surface had thawed and was very mobile, as was I. I dropped my pace, rolled my eyes to the heavens and plodded on.

With the rain that is forecast on Sunday / Monday, I expect it to form a perched water table above the frozen layer of rootzone and flood accordingly, so hopefully that'll be enough to deter the Nah-sayers. Now if you're lucky enough to be on a sand-based rootzone, this process tends to proceed at a pace and once thawed, the perched water will drain through reasonably quickly. Push up greens, greens in shade and heavier soil types may take longer.

It probably goes without saying that good, consistent 'comms' are vital.

Spray Windows

Or lack of them....

The other tricky management decision that the predicted run of weather is likely to create is when to make your pre-Christmas applications, be that pesticide, turf tonic, dew control or a combination thereof.

With a quick transition into windier, wet and mild weather and a likelihood of surface water and wet conditions on the run up to Christmas, it is going to be difficult. I'll have a better handle on this by next Monday, but if I think there's going to be a spray opportunity earlier, trust me, I'll shout. Now the north, Scotland and Ireland to a greater extent, should have more latitude here because the predicted rainfall is currently quite southerly-orientated although it'll still be breezy. This could change, remember the run up to Christmas forecast is heavily laced with caveats :)

OK, one more blog before Christmas and looking on the bright side we are only 9 days from The Winter Solstice and what is the shortest day.

Personally, I love winter. Currently I'm using part of my weekend to teach myself to bake proper Danish pastries. Last weekend was Tebirkes (above) and they worked out grand, next weekend it is Aebleskiver. There's something very Hugge about spending the afternoon making your own pastry in a warm kitchen, drinking copious amounts of strong coffee (or maybe Tuborg) and hopefully turning that into something special :)

Small wonder I need to exercise so much !!!!

Take care in the cold, wrap up well and all the best.

Mark Hunt

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