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  • Writer's pictureMark Hunt

November 6th, 2023

Hi All,

The first post of November and typically for this time of year we are starting to see air and soil temperatures drop significantly from their autumn high. Still though we are much higher than normal. In the recent past I used to work on soil temperatures hitting around 6-6.5°C in the first week of November. Currently I am seeing 9.5 - 10.0°C.

Last year we didn't hit the 6-6.5°C zone till the first week of December. Higher soil temperatures have a significant effect on root and shoot growth, particularly the former. It also affects worm activity !

Talking to customers at Saltex on the Prodata stand (thanks to everyone for dropping by), it is clear to me that the disease dynamic is also changing. Dollar Spot is on the increase, both geographically and in terms of the turf areas it is affecting. Moving to greens from approaches, tees and fairways and quite happy to take out Poa, Bentgrass, Ryegrass and Fescue, whilst it does so. Early autumn disease pressure from Microdochium has been countered by significant growth levels, so as fast as it comes in, it grows out. Affected grasses with foliar, rather than crown damage are growing out, with the elevated soil and air temperatures we have experienced this autumn.

Nature is also changing in line with this temperature shift. I have mentioned this before. By now, the hedgerows would be full of Redwings and Fieldfares, plundering the berry crop. At night you should be hearing the flocks on the wing. There's a few here but nothing like what I'd expect to see. Migrating species whether that be Butterflies or Birds are changing their behaviour in line with climate change. Maybe at some point in the future we won't see this influx of Winter Thrushes and it will become just a transient memory, held by a generation that noticed and understood this as a precursor for winter proper, rather than one nose down in their smart phones as they walk down the street (and across the road in front of you I also find !!!). Adapting to change is very much front and foremost in my mind at the moment.

Talking about elusive sightings, last night gave some areas of the U.K a sighting of The Northern Lights. Dagnabbit !!!!!!, I keep missing it. So I have downloaded the app below to hopefully give me some prior warning and I can seek out some areas of low light pollution in Leicestershire and Rutland.

So after a pretty wet October punctuated by some southerly-orientated storms and a very wet start to November with Storm Babet and Ciarán, how does the weather look this week and next ?

General Weather Situation - w/c 06-11-23

So we start this week with a low-lying jet stream (dark green line at the boundary between cold and warm air) and cold, unsettled air sitting over the U.K & Ireland with a westerly / north-westerly airstream. So the first half of the week is set for cooler winds, showers pushing into western coasts and when the wind is in this direction we tend to see heavier showers pushing off The Mersey Estuary down into The Midlands and northern England. Temperatures will sit in the range of 6-11°C range with a cool westerly / north westerly wind.

As we move towards mid-week, a cold low pressure pushes down to influence our weather scene. The wind will change to a south westerly and we will see rain cross Ireland Tuesday pm and then swiftly move across The Irish Sea into the west of the U.K on Wednesday morning. Unlike our two previous storms, this one will cross the U.K & Ireland without hanging around and so will quickly clear from the west, leaving behind showers on western coasts, which will occasionally push inland across Scotland and northern England.

As we approach the end of the week, that low pressure has pushed into the north west of the U.K and that will bring a change back to a cooler north westerly wind and an increases in wind strength. More rain for the north of Ireland, north west of England and across Scotland, pushed along by strong winds and cool temperatures struggling to make double figures. Definitely feeling more like winter. The outlook for the weekend remains cooler and unsettled with more rain across the west and north west. During Saturday, a band of heavier rain will push across Ireland and then the U.K on Sunday, so we aren't losing that wet theme just yet.

Weather Outlook - w/c 13-11-23

Yesterday I was looking at the GFS output and did a quick LinkedIn post that we may have a drier interlude on the cards for mid-November as a ridge of high pressure pushed up to provide a protective barrier to the current Atlantic barrage of storms. No sooner had I done so than the outlook flipped on its head and normal business resumed with a succession of Atlantic low pressure systems set to cross the U.K.

This shows the volatility within a weather forecast looking further ahead than 7 days and in my mind could easily flip back. Interestingly in today's version, there is a cold, settled outlook from 18-11-23 onwards with some northerly winds and I'd say frost as well. Now that's a long way ahead but definitely a winter weather signal worth keeping an eye on.

As it stands now, next week continues in a similar theme to this week temperature-wise, with a westerly / north westerly airstream and rain fronts pushing across the U.K & Ireland. Monday looks to start the week with those unsettled conditions from the weekend continuing in the form of a sunshine and showers scenario. Tuesday looks potentially pretty wet on the current forecast and this continues into Wednesday and looks to affect the southern half of the U.K more. A brief respite on Thursday is followed by another deep low pressure on Friday with heavy rain extending into the weekend. Now as I have said, this all looked very different yesterday so let's see if which version holds, unsettled or high pressure ridge. My hunch as I sit here is for the former with that cold temperature signal one to keep a keen eye on for the 3rd week of November.

Agronomic Notes

This week's blog will be doing an overdue look at GDD, G.P and rainfall stats from September and October. These stats take a lot of collating and along the way, I have been indebted to Aine (and for last months Irish stats to Rose) from Cropcare for compiling the Irish weather stats for the last 10 years. Thanks also to the superintendents that send in their weather stats as well. Hats off to you and I am genuinely so very grateful. It will be difficult to continue this after the end of this year, so enjoy and scrutinise while you can.

Monthly & yearly GDD statistics - Thame, Oxfordshire, U.K - September & October 2023

Above are the stats for September and October from our default location in the U.K.

First up, you can see how 'out there' September's GDD stats are courtesy of the heatwave at the beginning of the month. A total monthly GDD of 338 for September just edges out the previous highest total back in 2006 (334).

Interestingly, 2006 was one of the warmest years ever coming in at 2110.4 for the year (total GDD), a figure that wasn't surpassed till 2017. We have 4 years that have exceeded 2000 total GDD since 2006 - 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2022. 2023 will definitely join that list making a compelling argument for a warming trend over the last 6 years. You can argue as to the cause of this to the cows come home. To me, the argument itself is an irrelevance, we have to manage and deal with the reality of climate change on an every day basis, as you'll see from the G.P and rainfall stats coming up next.

UK locations - Growth PotentIal and Rainfall statistics - September & October 2023

September 2023 was a seriously warm month, with monthly G.P figures similar or exceeding that of June in the same year !

When you look at the monthly totals for June, July, August and September, they are pretty much the same, a tad cooler in September than August, but not by much. So for 4 months we had a grass plant growing pretty much at 85-90% of optimum. Now it is fair to say we always have high G.P in the summer, but in 2023 as you'll see from the rain stats below, we had summer rainfall as well. So rather than the monthly G.P being a slightly fictitious notion of potential growth if there's no rainfall (I am talking about non-irrigated areas here obviously), in summer and autumn 2023, we had the temperature AND the rain.

The agronomic consequences are many ;

  • Accelerated growth from tee to green including rough, semi-rough, fairways, tees and greens.

  • Difficult at times to maintain consistent greens speed when the plant was growing almost un-naturally fast even with a PGR application.

  • Semi and rough areas difficult to keep on top of, especially latterly as the excessive rainfall across the U.K & Ireland has made maintenance difficult from a machinery access / usage perspective.

  • Higher machinery hours and fuel / energy consumption

  • Very high Microdochium nivale pressure in early Sept and Oct.

  • Very high Dollar Spot pressure from the end of August once dew formation became more frequent due to longer nights and cooling temperatures.

Above are the rainfall stats for our U.K locations and you can see how May into June was drier but since the weather broke during June we have had continuous rainfall leading to the excessively high totals recorded in October for all locations, but especially the south west, south east and east of England and of course Scotland.

Think about these figures when it comes to maintenance, maintaining course / pitch playability and of course, revenue, whether that be buggy or member-related.

Irish locations - Growth PotentIal and Rainfall statistics - September & October 2023

The Irish situation followed a similar pattern but not quite the same.

September was a warm month across Ireland with the heatwave starting on the first day of the month and lasting 10 days. Ireland also picked up higher rainfall in September 2023 and with that rainfall came higher humidity.

The combination of elevated temperature and humidity triggered some very aggressive disease outbreaks, particularly from Microdochium and Dollar Spot, the latter a disease that hardly figured on golf courses and pitches across Ireland 10 years ago. The same issues agronomically as listed above apply to the Irish scenario but if anything were even more prevalent.

The rainfall stats for Ireland paint a sombre picture.

With most locations showing > 100mm per month from August through September and October, it is clear how difficult a job maintaining golf courses and pitches has been.

A small positive is that the sanding of pitches and outfield areas on golf courses in Ireland is more economically viable due to the availability of sand on the WIcklow coast.

The effect of Storm Betty and Babet on the south east of Ireland is very clear to see in the shockingly high rainfall totals recorded for Cork and Wexford. I can't remember seeing a 300mm+ month popping up that regularly. The reason for this localised excess is due to the southerly tracking of these storms and I am wondering if they also got caught in Storm Ciaraán last week ?

The term 'extreme weather' is banded around a lot at the moment and looking at the statistics above, one can see why. It also explains why the terminology 'Future proofing your facility' came up a lot in conversation last week at the Saltex exhibition.

Look at these stats, understand them and their consequences and above all, learn from them.

All the best.

Mark Hunt

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Nov 10, 2023

Incredible work as always Mark ! unfortunately I have a small group of membership who chose to blame our new irrigation system for the fact the greens puddle up more often - it’s not been used since the 10th of September !!

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