November 13th, 2023
I don't mind saying I am finding life a bit of a tough gig at the moment, it is challenging for me, both mentally and emotionally. No sympathy required or needed as we all have periods in life like this. That I know.
So on Saturday, when for once the sun shone and we had a simply, beautiful autumn day, I took myself and my significant other to a woodland area nearby (Fineshades Wood, near Corby) and we went for a walk off the beaten track looking for Mushrooms, Toadstools and Puffballs. Not to eat, just to stop and look at them, understand the type of habitat they prefer and marvel at their colours and their structure.
I particularly wanted to find a Flyagaric, it is bit late in the season but find some I did, nestling under some Bracken by the side of a track in a Beech / Birch wood. As I walked through the wood, taking in all the colours, looking for fungi, listening to the birds, I felt the tension drain away and when I returned to the lodge, I felt super-relaxed, calm and sorted.
Woodlands do that to you, they have an effect on the human psyche, something in-built in our modus operandi and I am very grateful for it. Walking through the Pine Forest at Holkham, Norfolk has a similar effect. My parents took me there when I was 4 years old and I am very glad that they did. There is even a Forestry Commission blog on the effect of woodland / forests on our wellbeing, you can read it here or one from The Woodland Trust here .
Nature provides so much for us, so much for me. Just as I was typing this, a Grey Wagtail landed on the patio to pick up some fat sprinkles, it is his first visit of the year. Now Wagtails are primarily insect feeders and this chap appears along with his Pied relative in my garden from November till the end of February, a period when insect numbers decline naturally, so we are his winter top-up venue. When you are out Christmas shopping in a Mall or Retail outlet, you'll see flocks of Wagtails hanging around as these areas are lit all year round and these lights attract insects AND insect-feeding birds. Not 10 minutes after the Grey Wagtail arrived, so did a pair of Pied Wagtails, their first visit as well. This made me smile, a little gift from nature which I accept gladly :)
When I look at the Woodland image above, now saved as wallpaper on my I-Phone, it just takes me straight back there. Those colours......
That image is in sharp contrast to the one that greeted me this morning as it got light.
Dull, Nimbostratus cloud cloaked the sky and the rain hammered down.
This run of weather is mentally challenging to anyone involved in our industry as it effects many areas, maintenance and business performance, just two of them. Later in this blog I'll put some numbers on why it is such a difficult period but for now, let's look at the weather and see if there is a break on the horizon ?
General Weather Situation
Well not as we start the week I am afraid as a very fast-moving storm system, now named Storm Debi. You can see it on the GFS output from tropicaltidbits.com vectoring over Ireland and heading towards northern England and Scotland. The only positive aspect of this storm is that unlike Storms Ciarán and Babet, which were slow-moving storm systems, caught in a trough pattern in the jet stream, this storm system is being pushed along by a very fast-moving, jet stream, so it'll cross the respective countries quickly. It will be an intense low pressure system though and have some very strong winds and heavy rain attached to it across the areas I have outlined above, with a band of rain moving across the U.K & Ireland on Monday.
With south westerly winds being pulled it, it'll be a lot milder than the weekend with temperatures pushing into the low teens for the first part of the week, before dropping away from mid-week onwards. Following behind this storm system, there is another low pressure system lurking, however as forecast awhile back, a ridge of high pressure is set to build on Tuesday and that'll nudge this low northwards, so wetter in the north west and north but drier further south and across Ireland, with the bulk of showers isolated to western-facing coasts.
Now unfortunately there is a Bay of Biscay low pressure vectoring into our weather picture, building through Wednesday. I have marked it above with a large 'L'.
So Wednesday will be another south-north divide, drier in the south and west, a little cooler, with temperatures just nudging into double figures. It will be last of the dry days for the south of England as that low pressure impacts on Thursday and brings rain to all areas, particularly across Wales and the southern half of the U.K. Again this weather system won't linger so by Thursday evening it'll be away into The North Sea. Friday will see a new low pressure system build, north west of Scotland and it'll ramp up the winds for the end of the week / weekend. Again these will be south westerly in nature, so milder across the south and west, cooler across the north.
So Friday is a mainly dry day, save for those showers across western areas, until the main rain arrives into the south west of Ireland and England on Friday afternoon and then crosses The Irish Sea into Wales, England and Scotland overnight into Saturday. Saturday will see a legacy of this rain across the north of Ireland, The North West and Scotland, with drier conditions further south. Strong south westerly winds will prevail and that means milder air will continue to push in over the weekend. That unsettled picture remains, with further rain across most areas, though always more likely across the west and north. Ireland should miss most of it thankfully.
Now next week potentially offers a glimmer of hope that this run of Atlantic low pressure systems that began nearly two months ago will be broken. As you can see from the GFS output above for next Monday, the first thing that stands out is the wind direction, that being northerly and the presence of cooler air. So I think we start next week with a much colder airstream in place and as things stand now, a building high pressure system which should provide us some calm, dry and settled weather. If it does arrive it could stay in place for at least a week, a chance for some respite.
Potential Disease Signal
The potential arrival of this high pressure system should return us to normal November single figure temperatures, with some mist, fog and potentially frost.
My only concern here is that there could be some significant humidity linked to this high pressure, which means high Microdochium nivale disease pressure. In the GFS output above, you can see how warm, humid air is pulled up from southern Europe.
I may be wrong, the forecast may change, but take it as a heads up that if the forecast stays on plan, we might have high disease pressure associated with it. More on that next Monday.....
Weather diary of the year so far.....
So I thought I'd put some numbers to the current weather situation.
Now I am damned as soon as I type this because of the variation in our weather and particularly rainfall. We know for instance that Wexford and Cork have had a particularly brutal autumn from a rainfall perspective, as has the south coast, the east of Scotland and The Channel Islands.
The chart below is taken from a Davis Weather Station at Sevenoaks, Kent.
Now for sure, the numbers will be different where you are, but the pattern will be similar from an E.T vs. rainfall perspective.
The graph shows the monthly total rainfall and E.T (in mm) and the difference between the two figures. A red bar indicates a month when the E.T exceeded the rainfall, a light blue bar, the opposite. Remember E.T represents moisture evaporated from the soil and the grass plant.
Starting off the year we had a wet January, with high monthly rainfall (for Kent) and very little E.T. February was an odd month, an extremely odd month, with practically no rainfall as high pressure stayed over us all month in an Omega Blocking pattern. It was also mild, so the E.T exceeded the rainfall. Probably the first time it has done this in February since the 1930's !
That blocking pattern broke down coming into March and we endured a very wet start to spring and this continued into April. Normally I fear for April as it can often be a hard month to initiate grass growth, with cold and dry blocking events common. This April, we had an active jet stream and consequently a continuation of the rain, with a plethora of BOB systems affecting the south of Ireland and the U.K.
The situation was reversed in early May when the taps turned off abruptly and temperature picked up. Aside from February, May was the first drying month when E.T exceeded rainfall. Another Omega blocking pattern was responsible and this time it lasted well into June, pulling up hot, dry air from southern Europe and Africa. And so you can see the differential between rainfall and E.T grew into June with a marked moisture deficit.
Now normally this trend for a marked deficit between E.T and rainfall has a tendency to continue through July and August, but this year you can see the deficit decreased. That was of course because the blocking pattern ended towards the end of June and we then had a 'summer' of sunshine and showers, with more rainfall than usual. Now the E.T still exceeded the rainfall total in July and August, but not by much. Remember a hot July or August can easily provide a -100 / -125mm deficit. We were only -25mm odd, so you can see the difference in weather patterns and the result.
September is nearly always what I call a shoulder month.
Typically E.T and rainfall are very closely matched as days shorten and nights lengthen. This was the case in 2023 with near identical rainfall and E.T. These results hide the early September heatwave that provided us the highest temperatures of the year.
Why do they hide it ?
Well it was calm, dry and settled, so we didn't get high wind speeds with that temperature peak and so didn't dry out significantly. Another blocking pattern provided dry weather through most of September, though we did have Storm Betty, a campervan awning-wrecking low pressure system as I remember it !!
By mid-October, the flood gates opened with the first of a series of Storm systems that has continued right through to the present day, literally with Storm Debi arriving today. So you see how October has a rainfall vs. E.T surplus and also how November has already exceeded the October surplus and we are only on the 13th of the month !
That's how wet we are and why golf courses, pitches built on heavy soil are completely saturated as we stand now. Remember also that with that moisture comes cloaking Nimbostratus cloud, which tends to provide very little light for our grass plant.
Has the light at the end of the tunnel been turned off ?
So chlorotic growth is likely, both due to low PAR (photosynthetically active radiation - the part of the light spectrum that plants utilise) light levels and also some hypoxia (lack of oxygen) caused by soil waterlogging, courtesy of the heavy and persistent rainfall we have received of late. If you look at the Barley and Whet crops in the fields currently, you can see this chlorosis clearly.
I looked at the average DLI (Daily Light Interval) levels for a central England location recently and you can see how quickly they have dropped off since September.
Remembering that we require a DLI level of 30 mols per m2 for Creeping Bentgrass and 11 mols per m2 for Perennial ryegrass.
Month September October November-to-date
Average DLI 25.2 15.6 9.7
(mols per m2)
So the average DLI for November-to-date across England is even below the sufficiency level for Lolium perenne. I suspect it is even borderline for Poa annua as well and definitely insufficient for Browntop Bentgrass.
Time for a tonic ?
If you are able to get out and spray before next week (doubtful I know because of the wind and ground conditions), it might be prudent to pick the grass plant up colour-wise with a bit of iron, magnesium and the like. Even early next week may serve you well.
If that high pressure arrives next week and it is an 'if', we should have a drying reprieve, a chance for soils to dry down, a pick up in light levels and maybe for the state of your mental health as well.
All the best.