Looking back to a July with record heat and drought

Hole 10 at Habu CC from behind the green on 1 July 2001.
Hole 10 at Habu CC from behind the green on 1 July 2001.

From September 2000 to August 2001, I was the greenkeeper at Habu CC in Chiba prefecture, near Tokyo. When I look at photos of the course from that month, I recall the hard work of golf course maintenance that summer. I remember that it was hot, and that we had to irrigate a lot, and that I or one of the interns or employees would have to go to the course every night to check if the irrigation system was working properly.

I wondered just how hot and dry it was that month. So I looked it up. The nearby Chiba station has data from 1966. I have made a few plots to show these data (through 2012).

July 2001 matched the previous record monthly average temperature, and that record was only broken in 2010. This chart includes a red line with the average for all 47 years, and the data for 2001 are shown in a green square. The mean July temperature in 2001 was more than 2.5°C above the long-term average.

At the time, July 2001 set a new record for average daily high temperature, breaking the previous record by almost 1°C, nearly 4°C above the long-term average. That record was broken in July 2004.

Combined with the record-setting heat, I was surprised to discover that it was the driest July on record, with only 8 mm of precipitation, less than 10% of the long-term average.

I remember that we worked hard that summer, but at the time, I did not realize that we were working through record heat and drought. Thanks to the detailed records of the Japan Meteorological Agency, I now have a better idea of how that month compares to a typical July.

And with that knowledge, I am especially grateful to the fine greenkeeping staff from that summer—a third of whom have gone on to become golf course superintendents themselves—who worked so hard to maintain these conditions through that record-setting heat and drought.

View from the 14th tee at Habu CC in July 2001.
View from the 14th tee at Habu CC in July 2001.

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