HAMNET Report 14 April 2019

Well, the SARL symposium and AGM has come and gone, and I hope those of you who attended one or both gained some useful information, ideas and encouragement to make this wonderful hobby of ours even better. Hopefully your determination to offer your skills to the betterment of society in your area is also increased, as HAMNET strives to be of use to everyone. That is, after all, HAMNET’s main purpose in life!

Congratulations are due to all the SARL award-winners, and particularly the winner of the HAMNET shield, Paul van Spronsen, ZS1V, the previous National Director of HAMNET!  You are a worthy recipient, Sir!  Personally, I don’t know why you have not been honoured with this award before!

Writing in The Washington Post, Joe Kunches reports that the latest 11-year cycle of the sun is almost over and scientists have just released predictions for the next one.

Based on the number of sunspots that formed, scientists considered the last solar cycle, No. 24, “weak.” They predict that the upcoming cycle, No. 25, may follow suit, but there are a range of views. Some scientists say the latest data point to a stronger cycle.

The solar cycle forecast was made public at the annual Space Weather Workshop last week, hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Centre.

Lisa Upton, a solar physicist with Space Systems Research Corporation and co-chair of the panel issuing predictions, said Cycle 25 should begin between mid 2019 and late 2020 and that it should reach its maximum between 2023 and 2026, when between 95 and 130 sunspots are projected. Average is between 140 and 220 sunspots.

Cycle 24 peaked in April 2014 with 116 sunspots. Should Cycle 25 actually reach the predicted values, that would stem the trend of the past few cycles that showed a continued decline.

The sunspot number for the peak of the next solar cycle (No. 25) is projected to be slightly higher than the last one (No. 24). (NOAA)

Scott McIntosh, a physicist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, says the latest information would suggest solar cycle 25 may actually be stronger than 24. “The present Geomagnetic data indicate a higher SC25 [solar cycle 25],” he said.

The decline in sunspot activity through cycle 24 was worrisome to some space weather scientists in that it suggested a return to a lengthy “solar drought,” reminiscent of the Maunder Minimum period of 1645-1715. Records show the sun was essentially spotless for this lengthy period, coinciding with the “Little Ice Age” in Europe and tickling the interest of scientists to wonder whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between solar behaviour and Earth’s climate.

The prediction panel, in future work, will attempt to understand better the strength, timing and location of sunspot formation across the sun’s hemispheres and the likelihood of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These are blasts of charged particles off the sun which can disrupt satellite and radio communications, and even power grids in extreme cases.

Frank Hill, a physicist at the National Solar Observatory, detected measurements heralding the start of Cycle 25 about a year ago. The small sample of data available hampers the confidence of prediction, but he estimates Cycle 25 will commence around October.

Solar scientists are most concerned about a major eruption from the sun, which could cause substantial damage to electronic communication systems and power grids. History suggests such extreme events are possible.

During the “Carrington Event” in 1859, for example, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii, according to historical accounts. The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA wrote. A similar event today would have the potential to cause serious damage to satellite communications and power infrastructure. During weak cycles, such events are less likely but still possible.

“While we are not predicting a particularly active Solar Cycle 25, violent eruptions from the sun can occur at any time,” Doug Biesecker, a solar physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Centre, said in a statement.

In any cycle, strong or weak, the strongest solar storms are most likely at the solar maximum, which is projected between 2023 and 2026 in Cycle 25. Pete Riley, a scientist with Predictive Science, said at the recent workshop that the probability of a “Carrington Event” during solar minimum is about 1.4 percent, whereas during solar maximum it balloons to about 28 percent.

The Cycle 25 prediction panel will continue its work and periodically update its forecasts.

On Saturday the 6th of April 2019 at 18h25, Peninsula Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR) was activated after a caller reported that an injured hiker was stuck near the summit of Lion’s Head.

WSAR teams who were at the tail end of their rescue standby shift at the Cableway Charity Challenge at Platteklip Gorge Table Mountain, were asked to respond to service this call. The Metro Rescue Mobile Incident Command vehicle, Logistical support 4x4s and Rescue Mountaineers were part of this response.

A medical doctor who happened to be hiking nearby came across the incident and remained with the 25 year old local male while relaying information to the Incident Commander who was stationed at the Staging Area where the trail begins on Signal Hill road. A rapid Response team consisting of Metro Medical Rescue Technicians, Rescue Mountaineers and Rescue Climbers were the first rescuers to reach the scene, and on arrival, they were able to confirm that the injuries were of a serious nature.

A helicopter response was not possible as the sun had already set. The hiker was packaged into a stretcher after which a lengthy manual carry out ensued. The recovery was of a technical nature which involved multiple lengths of rope and specialised climbing and rescue gear being used to lower the patient down very steep cliff sections of the mountain.

The operation lasted approximately 6 hours during which the stretcher was carried to a 4×4 vehicle in which the patient was driven off the mountain. An awaiting ambulance transported him to a medical facility for further treatment.

WSAR would like to wish the gentleman all the best in his healing process.

WSAR also thanks the off duty member of the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services for assisting with the operation after he had spotted the activities at the Staging Area.

Thank you to the WSAR website for news of this rescue.

Finally, good luck to all the Western Cape HAMNET members assisting with the Two Oceans Marathon on Easter Saturday. I’ll have a short report for you on this race next week.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 7 April 2019

Here is a further follow-up on the health implications of the Cyclone in Mozambique. Vox reports that cholera is beginning to spread among the victims of Cyclone Idai

Cholera is an often-deadly intestinal disease. It’s caused by drinking water or food that’s been tainted with sewage and human waste carrying the bacteria Vibrio cholera. Reports indicate that there are more than 1,000 cases of cholera in the port city Beira, Mozambique, and one confirmed death as of Tuesday the 2nd. That’s more than a doubling of cases since the weekend — and that number is expected to rise.

When cholera starts spreading, it can be difficult to control. Outbreaks usually happen when a country’s health, hygiene, and water systems break down — and that’s why they can appear after a natural disaster or amid a humanitarian crisis.

Not everyone who gets cholera falls gravely ill, but about one in ten experience the profuse, watery diarrhoea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration, and sometimes death.

The good news is that if people are treated quickly with rehydration solutions (and sometimes, antibiotics), cholera is survivable. After treatment, the death rate drops from 50 percent to less than 1 percent. There are also effective cholera vaccines.

Thank you to Brian Resnick and Julia Belluz for those notes.

Writing in New Atlas, David Szondy reports that a new study by Queen’s University Belfast and Aberystwyth University indicates that the Sun’s magnetic field is 10 times more powerful than previously thought. By analyzing a solar flare on September 10, 2017 using the Swedish one-meter Solar Telescope at an observatory on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Dr David Kuridze, Research Fellow at Aberystwyth University, was able to determine that the magnetic field is an order of magnitude greater than earlier measurements have suggested.

The Sun’s magnetic field is of more than academic interest. Though the Sun is so far away that its light takes eight minutes to reach us, its magnetic field has tremendous impact on our world.

The solar magnetic field reaches out and defines the limits of the solar system. It shields us from galactic cosmic rays. It confines and directs the massive solar flares that burst from the Sun’s interior and expand to over 20,000 km above its surface.

The solar magnetic field also has more direct effects on us. It can impact terrestrial weather and climate. Its effects form the auroras in the polar regions and it can affect magnetic compasses, GPS, and radio communications. A really big solar magnetic storm might even lead to an electromagnetic pulse event that could knock out the power grid of an entire continent.

According to the new study, the problem is that the Sun’s magnetic field isn’t so easy to measure. Instruments are limited and the Earth’s atmosphere tends to dampen the solar lines of force, making them appear weaker than they really are. But through good fortune and favourable conditions, the researchers were able to gain a clearer picture by turning their telescope to an area of the Sun’s surface they knew to be particularly volatile.

Kuridze says that by observing the Sun over a 10-day period, his team was lucky enough to catch a large flare and by analyzing its structure inside the Sun’s corona, he calculated that the Sun’s magnetic field is 10 times stronger than previously believed. This may sound daunting, but that makes it only about as strong as a fridge magnet, or 100 times less than that of an MRI scanner.

“Everything that happens in the Sun’s outer atmosphere is dominated by the magnetic field, but we have very few measurements of its strength and spatial characteristics,” says Kuridze. “These are critical parameters, the most important for the physics of the solar corona. It is a little like trying to understand the Earth’s climate without being able to measure its temperature at various geographical locations.

“This is the first time we have been able to measure accurately the magnetic field of the coronal loops, the building blocks of the Sun’s magnetic corona, with such a level of accuracy.”

The Air Force Technology website reports this week that Rocket Lab has launched an experimental satellite for the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

The launch sent a prototype reflect array antenna on board Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle to orbit.

DARPA’s Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) mission aims to space-qualify a new type of membrane reflect array antenna to improve radio communications in small spacecraft.

The antenna is made of Kapton membrane and is as thin as a tissue. It is designed to pack tightly inside the R3D2 satellite for stowage during launch, before deploying to its full size of 2.25m in diameter once it reaches low Earth orbit (LEO).

The idea behind the design is to provide the capability of large spacecraft in a much smaller package, removing the need for satellite owners to build large satellites.

The mission took around 18 months from satellite design and development to launch.

In another World Health Organisation report, women outlive men everywhere in the world – particularly in wealthy countries. The World Health Statistics 2019 – disaggregated by sex for the first time – explains why.

The gap between men’s and women’s life expectancy is narrowest where women lack access to health services. In low-income countries, where services are scarcer, 1 in 41 women dies from a cause related to childbirth, compared with 1 in 3300 in high-income countries.

Attitudes to healthcare differ. Where men and women face the same disease, men often seek health care less than women.  In countries with generalized HIV epidemics, for example, men are less likely than women to take an HIV test, less likely to access antiretroviral therapy and more likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses than women. Similarly, male TB patients appear to be less likely to seek care than female TB patients.

Of the 40 leading causes of death, 33 causes contribute more to reduced life expectancy in men than in women. In 2016, the probability of a 30-year-old dying from a non-communicable disease before 70 years of age was 44% higher in men than women.

We men are doomed from the start, and that’s the truth!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 31 March 2019

Cyclone-ravaged Mozambique faces a “second disaster” from cholera and other diseases, the World Health Organization warned on Tuesday, while relief operations pressed into rural areas where an unknown number of people remain without aid more than 10 days after the storm.

Some 1.8 million people in Mozambique need urgent help after Cyclone Idai, the United Nations said in an emergency appeal for $282 million for the next three months.

The death toll in Mozambique from the cyclone has risen to 468, according to Mozambican authorities cited by the Portuguese news agency Lusa. There are also 259 dead in Zimbabwe and at least 56 dead in Malawi.

Cyclone Idai was “one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in the history of Africa,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in New York. He raised the spectre of hunger, saying the storm inundated Mozambique’s breadbasket on the eve of harvest.

The death toll remained at least 761 in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and authorities have warned it is “very preliminary.” More bodies will be found as floodwaters drain away.

Emergency responders raced to contain deadly diseases such as cholera, which authorities have said will break out as more than a quarter-million displaced people shelter in camps with little or no clear water and sanitation. Many wells were contaminated by the floods.

People are living in tent camps, schools, churches, roads and other impromptu places on higher ground. Many have little but their clothes, squatting over cooking fires and picking their way around stretches of increasingly dirty water or simply walking through it, resigned.

The World Health Organization said it is expecting a “spike” in malaria cases in Mozambique. The disease-carrying mosquitoes breed in standing water.

WHO also said 900,000 oral cholera vaccines were expected to arrive later this week. Cholera is caused by eating contaminated food or drinking water and can kill within hours. Cases of diarrhoea have been reported.

“We must not let these people suffer a second disaster through a serious disease outbreak or inability to access essential health services. They have suffered enough,” Dr. Djamila Cabral, the WHO Representative in Mozambique, told reporters in Geneva.

A field hospital was being set up in Beira and another is arriving later this week, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said. A sanitation system to serve some 22,000 people has arrived and a water purification unit to serve some 25,000 people is expected to arrive on Wednesday, the organization said.

Thank you to Fox News for excerpts from their report.

Meanwhile, Caitlin Ryan, Emergency Communications officer for Doctors without Borders in Beira, has reported on the first confirmed cases of Cholera, as survivors are starting to drink whatever water they can find, contaminated or not. The challenge is to treat the patients who are seen at health centres, but also to stop the epidemic from spreading. Clean water to drink, and adequate and sanitary toilet facilities, are urgent requirements. More Cholera treatment centres are expected to be on line in the next few days. Caitlin Ryan expects Doctors without Borders’ medical response to the damage caused by Cyclone Idai to continue for at least six months.

And by yesterday the 30th, Medical Xpress announced that 271 cases of Cholera had been identified in Beira!.

Here’s news of another rescue on Table Mountain this week.

On Wednesday the 27th of March 2019 at 13h19,  Peninsula Wilderness Search and Rescue was activated after a caller had reported that a 57  year old German male had suffered an ankle injury while walking in the Table Mountain National Park.

The information received was that the patient was close to the upper section of the Platteklip Gorge route. The Metro Rescue Mobile Incident Command vehicle was dispatched to the Lower Cable Station where the crew made their way to the Upper Cable Station using the Cable Car. SANParks Visitor Safety Patrollers also responded.

The casualty was found on the Top Table section of Table Mountain, and on arrival at the scene, the Metro Medical Rescue Technicians treated the tourist for a severe ankle injury. He was then assisted to the Upper Cable Station where the rescuers and the patient were given a ride down to the Lower Cable Station in the Cable Car.

Once the team had reached the Tafelberg road, the patient was handed over to an awaiting ambulance which transported him to a medical facility for further treatment.

WSAR would like to commend the Table Mountain Aerial Company (TMAC) for their ongoing support and assistance.

In fact, there were five rescues around the Cape Peninsula over the previous long weekend, and four of them were satisfactorily concluded by means of helicopter extraction of the injured. While helicopter rescues costs much more than ground rescues, one can’t ignore the fact that helicopter extractions, if the weather allows them, are much faster, and likely to be in the better interests of the victim. I wonder whether air rescues will become the rule rather than the exception, as time goes by.

Now a feather in the cap for an amateur radio operator. WH6FTQ, Heather Flewelling, Dr Flewelling to her colleagues, is an astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii. She is currently working on a programme called ATLAS, for Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System. This consists of two 500mm telescopes 160km apart which automatically scan the whole sky several times a night, looking for moving objects. Heather’s job title is “Planetary Defence Researcher”, and she looks for the near-earth asteroids that potentially might slam into earth in the future. So far Atlas has discovered 283 near-earth Asteroids, 31 potentially-hazardous Asteroids, 16 Comets and 3082 Supernovas.

One morning, while scanning the previous night’s work, she discovered a comet, with a tail, measured it for size, brightness and position, and reported it to the Minor Planet Centre. Subsequently, the International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Centre named it “Comet Flewelling” in her honour on 21 March 2019.

Heather discovered amateur radio in 2018, rapidly got her licence, and has been operating VHF/UHF and SOTA  ever since.

Hats off to Heather!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 24 March 2019

Summarizing the many reports that have come out of Southern Africa’s eastern countries after last week’s cyclone, The Guardian notes that the devastating cyclone that hit south-eastern Africa may be the worst ever disaster to strike the southern hemisphere, according to the UN.

Cyclone Idai has swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe over the past few days, destroying almost everything in its path, causing devastating floods, killing and injuring thousands of people and ruining crops. More than 2.6 million people could be affected across the three countries, and the port city of Beira, which was hit on Friday the 16th and is home to 500,000 people, is now an “island in the ocean”, almost completely cut off.

The official death tolls in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are 200, 98 and 56 respectively. But these totals only scratch the surface; the real toll may not be known for many months as the countries deal with a still unfolding disaster.

Houses, roads and telegraph poles are completely submerged. The Mozambican and South African military and other organisations are working to rescue people from the air, though many are struggling to get supplies and teams to the region because roads and bridges have been ripped up or have huge sinkholes in them.

The Red Cross managed to get one truck containing chlorine tablets and 1,500 tarpaulins and tools to make shelters into Beira before it was cut off. Another was diverted to Manica, while the Red Cross is also trying to bring in more supplies from the island of Réunion by boat. The World Food Programme managed to get food supplies in and is doing airdrops to stranded people.

Thank you to The Guardian for those excerpts from their report.

Today, the 24th March is World TB Day. Tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s top infectious disease killer, claiming 4 500 lives each day. Since 2000, 54 million lives have been saved, and TB deaths fell by one-third. But 10 million people still fall ill with TB each year, with too many missing out on vital care.

The World Health Organisation has issued new guidance to improve treatment of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). WHO is recommending shifting to fully oral regimens to treat people with MDR-TB. The recommendations are part of a larger package of actions designed to help countries increase the pace of progress to end  TB.

“The theme of this year’s World TB Day is: It’s time to end TB,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We’re highlighting the urgent need to translate commitments made at the 2018 UN High Level Meeting on TB into actions that ensure everyone who needs TB care can get it.”

There’s never a good time to bring up child mortality. Statistics SA explains in a recently released report presenting the Under Five Mortality Rate, that reporting on child mortality is crucial for planning and developing health strategies, policies and interventions to ensure the safety and protection of all children.

To see how South Africa is fairing for the period 2006-2016, and in the hope of getting ever closer to these targets, we present the key findings from the report:

  • A higher proportion of deaths for children under 5 were that of males (53%), compared to females (46%). [Male babies are more vulnerable than Females]
  • 48% of deaths were from urban areas and 45% were from rural areas.
  • By population group in South Africa, the under 5 mortality rate (U5MR) was lowest among White (14,8/1000) and Indian/Asian groups (21,8/1000), followed by Coloureds (30,2/1000) and Black Africans (52.4/1000).
  • Provincially, Western Cape (24,5/1000) and Gauteng (34,3/1000) had the lowest U5MR per 1 000 live births, while Free State (68,4/1000) and KwaZulu-Natal (62,6/1000) had the highest.
  • In total 54 580 deaths for children under 5 were reported by households.
  • KwaZulu-Natal reported the highest (15 843), followed by Gauteng (8 591), however, the absolute number of deaths cannot be compared due to differing population sizes.
  • 80% of deaths for children under 5 were as a result of natural causes, the most of which include intestinal infectious diseases, as well as respiratory and cardiovascular disorders specific to the perinatal period. Significantly, influenza and pneumonia – both preventable – were also mentioned and ranked third responsible for the countless deaths.
  • The most significant finding, however, is the downward trend in U5MR nationally from 75 deaths per 1000 live births in 2006 to 34 deaths in 2016.

The report highlights that the mortality rate for younger children is high globally as a result of causes such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, as well as malnutrition, unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene, all of which can either be prevented or controlled.

In the light of the ongoing energy crisis we are experiencing in this country, it may interest Emcomm Operators to note the revolutionary changes that are taking place in the way we produce and consume power for our homes, transportation, and the technology that we use every day. A new book, Energy Choices for the Radio Amateur by Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, who developed the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS), explores ongoing changes in the world of power and energy and takes a careful look at the choices we can make. Concepts in the book can help prepare for emergency and backup power at home and in the field.

Energy Choices for the Radio Amateur is available from the ARRL bookstore.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 10 March 2019

The World Health Organisation issued a statement on Friday, referring specifically to women in Health Sciences, but able to be projected to all aspects of life.

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate all the women who have had a pioneering role in advancing science and health: Florence Nightingale, Fe del Mundo, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and many others.

In 2019, however women still struggle to rise up the ranks of both health and science. Gender discrimination, implicit bias, sexual harassment, and assault have been found to be systemic barriers to women’s advancement in global health careers.

Female health workers comprise 70% of the health workforce worldwide yet women occupy only 25% of leadership positions in health and just 12% of the membership of national science academies worldwide.

There are positive signs that things are changing, even if slowly, and evidence shows that implementing flexible working arrangements, providing mentorship programmes, and instituting formal polices on gender discrimination and harassment, and gender-specific leadership training can break down the barriers for women to lead in global health.

On 8 March 2019, it’s a moment to recall that principles of human rights and social equity require that women play just as significant roles in science and health as men.

For those of you wanting to listen to signals in extraordinarily small quanta, researchers at Delft University of Technology have created a quantum circuit to listen to the weakest radio signal allowed by quantum mechanics. This new quantum circuit opens the door to possible future applications in areas such as radio astronomy and medicine. It also enables experiments to shed light on the interplay between quantum mechanics and gravity. The results have been published in Science.

The usual solution to a weak radio signal is to find a bigger signal, for instance, by picking a different radio station or by moving to the other side of the room. However, what if we could just listen more carefully?

Weak radio signals are not just a challenge for people trying to find their favourite radio station, but also for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners at hospitals, as well as for the telescopes scientists use to peer into space. In a quantum leap in radio frequency detection, researchers in the group of Prof. Gary Steele in Delft demonstrated the detection of photons or quanta of energy, the weakest signals allowed by the theory of quantum mechanics.

One of the strange predictions of quantum mechanics is that energy comes in tiny little chunks called quanta. What does this mean? “Say I am pushing a kid on a swing,” says lead researcher Mario Gely. “In the classical theory of physics, if I want the kid to go a little bit faster I can give them a small push, giving them more speed and more energy. Quantum mechanics says something different: I can only increase the kid’s energy one ‘quantum step’ at a time. Pushing by half of that amount is not possible.”

For a kid on a swing, these quantum steps are so tiny that they are too small to notice. Until recently, the same was true for radio waves. However, the research team in Delft developed a circuit that can actually detect these chunks of energy in radio frequency signals, opening up the potential for sensing radio waves at the quantum level.

Beyond applications in quantum sensing, the group in Delft is interested in taking quantum mechanics to the next level, which is mass. While the theory of quantum electromagnetism was developed nearly 100 years ago, physicists are still puzzled today on how to fit gravity into quantum mechanics.

“Using our quantum radio, we want to try to listen to and control the quantum vibrations of heavy objects, and explore experimentally what happens when you mix quantum mechanics and gravity,” Gely said. “Such experiments are hard, but if successful we would be able to test if we can make a quantum superposition of space-time itself, a new concept that would test our understanding of both quantum mechanics and general relativity.”

Thank you to Phys.org for that news.

And from Medical X-press comes a discussion on how music has the ability to captivate us. When listeners engage with music, they follow its sounds closely, connecting to what they hear in an affective and invested way. But what is it about music that keeps the audience engaged? A study by researchers from The City College of New York and the University of Arkansas charts new ground in understanding the neural responses to music.

Despite the importance, it has been difficult to study engagement with music given the limits of self-report. This led Jens Madsen and Lucas Parra, from CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering, to measure the synchronization of brainwaves in an audience. When a listener is engaged with music, his neural responses are in sync with that of other listeners. Thus inter-subject correlation of brainwaves is a measure of engagement.

According to their findings, published in the latest issue of Scientific Reports, a listener’s engagement decreases with repetition of music, but only for familiar music pieces. However, unfamiliar musical styles can sustain an audience’s interest, in particular for individuals with some musical training.

“Across repeated exposures to instrumental music, inter-subject correlation decreased for music written in a familiar style,” Parra and his collaborators write in Scientific Reports.

In addition, participants with formal musical training showed more inter-subject correlation, and sustained it across exposures to music in an unfamiliar style. This distinguishes music from other domains, where interest drops with repetition.

“What is so cool about this, is that by measuring people’s brainwaves we can study how people feel about music and what makes it so special.” says Madsen.

Your writer has noted that music can “capture” his thought processes, and prevent him from being able to form a coherent sentence, or concentrate on another subject. Perhaps those minute quanta of detected sound mentioned in the previous article can cause a resonance in sound interpretation in my temporal lobes, where sound is appreciated, thereby causing synchronised neural responses which overwhelm my ability to concentrate on anything else. It might also be the reason why fellow musicians can enjoy a “jam-session”, creating music and resonance together in a way which satisfies those feel-good brain hormones.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 3 March 2019

Inside a small, rectangular room at the University of Washington is a series of shelves filled with more than 300 high-tech tools. There’s a collection of drones, cameras, and tablets, and even a mobile EEG kit, able to measure a brain’s electrical activity and detect stress levels in disaster victims. Each one has been meticulously organized, labelled, and packed away in a protective case, ready to be sent hundreds or even thousands of miles to the next natural disaster.

This is one of the three rooms that make up the RAPID Facility in Seattle, a first-of-its-kind centre pushing the boundaries on natural disaster research, along with the world’s ability to mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of these hazards.

At a time when extreme weather, such as hurricanes and wildfires, is having a major impact on our daily lives, gaining this type of information is becoming especially vital, says Joseph Wartman, director of the RAPID Facility and geologic hazards professor at the University of Washington. In 2018, these types of hazards resulted in 247 deaths and almost $100 billion in damage in the U.S. Globally, natural hazards resulted in $330 billion in global losses in 2017, up from $200 billion in 2014. Wartman said there does appear to be a trend toward more frequent weather-related disasters, as well as an uptick in their intensity, so it’s very important to understand these hazards better.

Launched in September through a National Science Foundation grant, the centre–officially called the Natural Hazards Reconnaissance Experimental Facility–acts as a type of natural disaster research hub. Entities across the world reach out when hazards strike (occasionally right before, if there’s any type of warning), and the small team ships them equipment to use temporarily, travels out to the site to operate the tools themselves, or actually collects and processes the data for them.

The facility has already been instrumental in research following hurricanes Michael and Florence, earthquakes in Japan and Indonesia, and large landslides in Alaska and Oregon. In each case, the team of about a dozen researchers has facilitated the collection of huge swaths of data of the disaster zone during the crucial period before serious clean-up begins. They then organize this evidence into comprehensive tables or transform it into point clouds, 3D visualizations of a scene made up of a large number of individual points, or even Google-type streetview images.

But no matter how they process this data, they make a point of always sharing it online.

“Whatever we collect goes up to a public repository very quickly, and then researchers from around the world can use that,” said Wartman. “Let people not only use it, but let them dream up new uses for this data. It’s a public asset after we use it.”

With this type of data and sharing, the entire scientific community has already started to gain extremely precise information about what actually takes place when these hazards strike. That can be very helpful when it comes to reworking or building new predictive models that help anticipate the type of damage and effects on communities resulting from each natural disaster.

“What we’re trying to do is anticipate and ultimately be able better to forecast hazards, because if we can do that then we can begin to understand where our weak points are and take measures to reduce the risk and increase resilience,” said Wartman.

The facility is expected to continue to help boost natural disaster research for at least a few more years. It’s running on a five-year contract from the National Science Foundation, along with about $5 million in funding from the agency.

Thank you to Fast Company for these extracts from their article.

An insert in  the Weekly ARRL Letter for 28 February says that Alex Schwarz, VE7DXW, in British Columbia, Canada, is exploring the possibility that “RF signatures” detected by the RF Seismograph propagation tool could also be indicating earthquakes, and may even be able to predict them shortly before they occur. A real-time HF propagation-monitoring tool developed by Schwarz and the MDSR team, the RF Seismograph shows both band noise and activity or band activity alone on six HF bands. It’s a project of the North Shore Amateur Radio Club (NSARC).

“We had been doing the solar eclipse experiment, and we developed the RF Seismograph software to look for changes in propagation during the eclipse,” Schwarz explained. “After the eclipse, we decided to leave the RF Seismograph running, and we have now collected 4 years of data.”

The system uses an omnidirectional multiband antenna to monitor JT-65 frequencies (±10 kHz) on 80, 40, 30, 20, 15, and 10 meters. Recorders monitor the background noise and display the result in six colour-coded, long-duration graphs displaying 6 hours of scans. When signals are present on a band, its graph trace starts to resemble a series of vertical bars.

Most recently, the RF Seismograph recorded the magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Ecuador on February 22. Schwarz recounted that noise on 15 meters began to be visible about 1 hour before the quake; then, 2 hours after the quake released, 15 meters started to recover. The US Geological Survey said the quake was about 82 miles below ground. It did not affect 80 meters. Schwarz speculated that the quake was easy to see on the RF Seismograph because 15 meters typically is not open during hours of darkness — especially when the solar flux is only 70.

Following a magnitude 5.0 earthquake off the coast of Vancouver Island, his RF Seismograph picked up changes. Canada’s government-run Earthquakes Canada was able to provide Schwarz with a list of magnitude 6.0 or greater events since the RF Seismograph went into operation, and the two teams have been collaborating to find a correlation between HF propagation anomalies and earthquakes. With the measurements, Schwarz has been attempting to find a correlation between the list of past geological events and what his RF Seismograph may have sensed on those occasions.

“The earthquakes show up as RF noise because of the electric field lines, now scientifically confirmed to change the way the ionosphere reflects RF,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz said 171 earthquakes — all magnitude 6.0 events or greater — were studied, and only 15 of them had no RF noise associated with them. In 26 cases, the time of the disturbance detected by the RF Seismograph failed to match the USGS-reported time of the quake. Schwarz said that in 72% of the earthquake studies, the RF Seismograph was able to detect an increase in noise on 80 meters, typically before and after the event.

One would certainly not expect earthquakes to show up in RF band noise and activity charts!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 24 February 2019

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) reported on Friday at 12h50 our time, that a magnitude 7.5 earthquake had been registered 33 minutes earlier in Ecuador, at a depth of about 132Km, and in an area inhabited by 46000 people within a radius of 50Km. The quake’s epicentre was in the province of Pastaza, with 28 villages or small towns within the 50 Km radius. So far I have not heard of any casualties, but will be monitoring the agencies.

For those countries who do not have ‘disasters’, Greg Mossop G0DUB has reported on an event in Berlin which started at ~1300UTC on 19th February.

At that time, contractors in Berlin, Germany, working on a bridge hit 110kV cables cutting the power to 30000+ homes and removing heating from 5000 homes which were fed from a combined heating and power plant. A local hospital lost power and had to close their intensive care unit and bring in generators to provide power to 60% of the hospital building.

The fire and police services had to put units into the area for the public to call for help directly as mobile and fixed telephones were reported to have failed. Security systems also failed and a school hall was converted with 196 beds to allow people who needed somewhere warm to stay.

The event did not finish until 30 hours later when a repair was made to the cable to restore some power to the area.

This outage was caused by humans, not the weather or other natural reasons, and demonstrates how vulnerable systems are to a loss of electricity.

In a similar report, Michael Becker, DJ9OZ, says that schools, nurseries, waterworks and central heating works had to close down. Telephone-, mobile phone- and traffic light-networks and road lighting shut down as well.

The two hospitals in this area had emergency power supplies, but one went down after a while and THW, the national technical relief agency, supported with a mobile power generator. The other hospital evacuated their 23 intensive care patients for safety reasons to other hospitals.

Three mobile police stations and a disaster relief truck in front of the town hall had been installed to spread information to the public supported by mobile loudspeaker cars of the police patrolling through the wide spread area. Municipal transport services had been asked by fire brigades – acting in Berlin as disaster relief – to relay emergency calls of inhabitants via their 24h operating radio system.

Looting or other increased criminal activity was not reported.

“Our Berlinham radio emergency group put calls on hourly basis via a VHF repeater covering the affected area and on the direct emcom frequency, but no emcom traffic was requested”, says Michael.

Thank you to Greg and Mike for these reports.

Now interesting news from NASA.

Radio waves are still the main way to communicate with spacecraft, but that aging technology could soon get an upgrade that will allow faster data downloads from space. NASA is currently preparing to test out an X-ray communication system on the International Space Station.

The project, known as XCOM, will make use of equipment already onboard the ISS for different purposes. The Neutron-star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) is currently perched on the outside of the space station, where it’s scanning the cosmos for X-ray emissions coming from neutron stars.

But NICER is no one-trick pony. In 2017, NASA engineers demonstrated how the instrument could use data from millisecond pulsars as a kind of space-GPS, precisely calculating the position of the ISS to within 3 miles (4.8 km). It is this potential to pick up X-ray signals that makes it a good candidate for a receiver in an X-ray communication system.

To test the idea, at the other end NASA is using a specially-designed device called the Modulated X-ray Source (MXS). This device produces X-rays by first shining UV light onto a photocathode material like magnesium. That produces electrons, which are then accelerated into another material that in turn produces X-rays. Importantly, the MXS can be quickly switched on and off, encoding binary messages into X-rays that can be beamed to and deciphered by a receiver.

For the upcoming test, NASA installed the MXS on the outside of the ISS. There, it will beam X-ray messages over a distance of 165 ft (50 m) to NICER, which will attempt to decode them. The message itself will be kept simple at first, the team says, to ensure that the device can pick up exactly what was sent. If that works, a more complicated message may be transmitted in a later test.

If all goes to plan, X-ray communication could eventually be used to beam data to and from a range of spacecraft. X-rays have much shorter wavelengths than radio waves or even laser communication systems, which are also in development. That means they should be able to pack more data into tighter beams, effectively allowing faster data transfer rates. And considering the long delay that can come from communicating with distant craft like New Horizons, anything that hurries the process along can only be a good thing.

Another potential advantage is that X-rays can penetrate the hot plasma sheath that normally cuts off radio communications when a craft is blasting through the Earth’s atmosphere. X-rays could keep the crew in touch with ground control during this critical and intense period.

The XCOM tests are due to take place on the ISS in the next few months.

Thanks to New Atlas and NASA for the report.

For those of you interested in dabbling in geostationary satellite work, George Smart, M1GEO, has published a very comprehensive article on receiving the amateur radio transponders on the Es’hail-2 satellite. The article is available at https://www.george-smart.co.uk/2019/02/eshail2-rx/

I hope this will be off assistance to those ZS stations following the thread on the SARL forum on Es’hail-2, if they have not already seen it.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 17 February 2019

Glynn Chamberlain ZS6GLN has drawn my attention to the fact that the report on the Value Logistics Cycle Race in last week’s bulletin was in fact written by Allen Herweg ZS6HWG, and not by Glynn himself. My apologies for getting the source wrong!

Gideon Jannasch ZS4GJA reports that on Monday 11 February, HAMNET Vaal was activated during the memorial service for the learners from Hoërskool Driehoek who passed away.

Gideon ZS4GJA was attending the service and was one of the security monitors during the service.  HAMNET was asked to stand by in case of any emergency which might occur.  The service was attended by approximately 2500 people and  high level officials, and anything might possibly have happened.

Most of the HAMNET Vaal members and other Radio Amateurs of the Vaal were monitoring from 14:00 from home or their work places, in case of any communication relay that might be needed.  Members close to the church were ready to be deployed should there have been an emergency.

No emergency occurred and the members were stood down at 17:00.

Our heartfelt condolences go to the parents and families of the four children who died, and the many who are recovering after this tragic event of 1 February 2019, when a concrete walkway collapsed on children at the school.

Thank you to Gideon for this report.

Radio is a powerful tool that continues to promote “dialogue, tolerance and peace,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a message on Thursday, marking World Radio Day.

“Even in today’s world of digital communications, radio reaches more people than any other media platform” explained the UN chief, adding that it “conveys vital information and raises awareness on important issues”.

“And it is a personal, interactive platform where people can air their views, concerns, and grievances” he added, noting that radio “can create a community”.

UN Radio was established on 13 February 1946, and since 2013, the day has been commemorated to recognize radio as a powerful communication tool and a low-cost medium.

“For the United Nations, especially our peacekeeping operations, radio is a vital way of informing, reuniting and empowering people affected by war”, said Mr Guterres.

Despite the rise of the internet, many parts of the world, especially remote and vulnerable communities, have no access, making radio broadcasting via transmitters, a vital lifeline. Joining a community of local listeners, also provides a platform for public discussion, irrespective of education levels.

Moreover, it has a strong and specific role in emergency communication and disaster relief.

“On this World Radio Day, let us recognize the power of radio to promote dialogue, tolerance and peace”, concluded the Secretary-General.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) underscored “the unique, far-reaching power of radio to broaden our horizons and build more harmonious societies”.

“Radio stations from major international networks to community broadcasters today remember the importance of radio in stimulating public debate, increasing civic engagement and inspiring mutual understanding”, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in her message.

Since its invention as the first wireless communication medium well over a hundred years ago, “the radio has sparked new conversations and broadcast new ideas into people’s homes, villages, universities, hospitals and workplaces,” she continued. “To this day, dialogue across the airwaves can offer an antidote to the negativity that sometimes seems to predominate online, which is why UNESCO works across the world to improve the plurality and diversity of radio stations”.

The UNESCO chief pointed out that radio has adapted to 21st-century changes and offers new ways to participate in conversations that matter, retaining its role as “one of the most reactive, engaging media there is”, especially for the most disadvantaged.

The Es-hail-2 narrowband transponder went live a couple of days early and now is open for Amateur Radio. Thursday, February 14, was Teleport Inauguration Day in Qatar, celebrating the opening of the new Es’hailSat teleport and the “official” opening of Es’hail-2, which carries the first geostationary Amateur Radio payload, a German P4A package. Es’hail-2 launched last November from Cape Canaveral. The two Amateur Radio transponders onboard what’s now known as Qatar OSCAR 100 (QO-100) became available on February 12 for general operation by stations within QO-100’s footprint. Emceeing the opening ceremony was Qatar’s former Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiya, A71AU, who chairs the Qatar Amateur Radio Society (QARS) and is a satellite patron.

A delegation from Germany — AMSAT-DL President Peter Guelzow, DB2OS; Achim Vollhardt, DH2VA, and Thomas Kleffel, DG5NGI, of the P4A team — went to Qatar to set up and commission the ground segment of P4A, which includes a club station that will operate under the auspices of QARS as A71A.

An AMSAT-DL ground station at the Bochum Observatory in Germany has been set up for QO-100, and operation via the satellite will be carried out using the call sign DL50AMSAT, recognizing AMSAT’s 50th anniversary.

The satellite transponder offers a 250-kHz passband for modes such as SSB, FreeDV, CW, RTTY, and other modes, plus an 8-MHz wideband downlink for digital amateur TV (DATV) modes. Downlink frequencies are at 10 GHz. The uplink frequency is at 2.4 GHz.

Stations located outside of the QO-100 footprint or lacking 10 GHz receive capability can monitor the proceedings using online WebSDR resources. In cooperation with AMSAT-DL, the British Amateur Television Club (BATC) will operate a WebSDR for the narrowband segment, and a spectrum viewer for the wideband (DATV) segment. The satellite is in geostationary orbit at 25.9° E.

Thanks to the ARRL letter for 14 February for this news.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

 

 

 

 

HAMNET Report 10 February 2019

National Centres for Environmental Information (NCEI) scientists have updated the world magnetic model (WMM) mid-cycle, as Earth’s northern magnetic pole has begun shifting quickly away from the Canadian Arctic and toward Siberia, an NCEI report said this week. While the new WMM more accurately represents the change of the magnetic field since 2015, it has no impact on propagation.

Updated versions of the WMM are typically released every 5 years. This update comes about 1 year early.

“This out-of-cycle update before next year’s official release of WMM 2020 will ensure safe navigation for military applications, commercial airlines, search and rescue operations, and others operating around the North Pole,” said NCEI, which is part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “Organizations such as NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, US Forest Service, and many more use this technology. The military uses the WMM for undersea and aircraft navigation, parachute deployment, and more.” Other governmental entities use the technology for surveying and mapping, satellite/antenna tracking, and air traffic management. Smartphone and consumer electronics companies also rely on the WMM to provide consumers with accurate compass apps, maps, and GPS services.

Airport runways may be the most visible example of a navigation aid updated to match shifts in Earth’s magnetic field. Airports around the country use the data to give runways numerical names, which pilots refer to on the ground. The declination has changed slightly more than 2.5° over the past 2 decades or so. Compasses use declination — the difference between true north and where a compass points — to help correct navigation systems for a wide variety of uses.

Thank you to NOAA-NCEI for this report.

On the weekend of 26 and 27 January 2019 members of the Gauteng South and Vaal HAMNET Branches once again assisted the Rotary Club of South Africa with the annual Value Logistics Cycle Race held in Meyerton.

Glynn Chamberlain ZS6GLN, National HAMNET Director reports that over 30 HAMNET members were involved in various tasks including the setting up of a Joint Operation Centre, Installation of Radios and Trackers in emergency and event vehicles and the linking of repeaters.

All control vehicles, ambulances and control points were able to communicate with the JOC and live tracking was provided visually to enable the event organisers to deploy vehicles and manpower to problem areas. This gave the organisers an up to date live visual representation as to what was going on, on the ground. Emergency and sweep vehicles were able to be directed to each problem area with ease.

Glyn ZS6GLN, the JOC commander, and his team kept the race organisers abreast of developments, accidents and incident within seconds of them occurring.

Unfortunately three accidents were recorded for the day where cyclists had to be treated and taken to hospital. Numerous other riders were treated for minor injuries by the roving ambulances while the HAMNET ground crew provided mechanical support to the riders.

The Vaal Team provided food and refreshments for the team during the course of the weekend. A communal braai was held for the members who stayed overnight.

Despite the serious injuries and damaged cycles, the event was deemed a success with over 3700 cyclists participating.

The Gauteng South and Vaal teams have a positive attitude and the commitment to always strive in deploying more technology to assist in the coordination of communication events.  New prototypes of APRS trackers were tested with success.  Further to this, the updated trackers and dual band radios fitted to the service vehicles were also a major contributor to the successful coordination of the activities.

From this model of operations, more systems are fine-tuned to allow other Hamnet teams to also expand their capabilities.  News of the Vaal trackers will follow in a couple of months allowing cheap and affordable APRS tracking for all radio amateurs.

Well done to all members who assisted. And thanks, Glynn for the report.

Meanwhile, here in Cape Town, HAMNET Western Cape helped to guarantee a successful “We benefit” 99er Cycle Tour yesterday, the 9th of February, in and around Durbanville.

Just short of 3000 cyclists rode the race, by far the majority choosing the 102km race, the rest opting for the 57km ride. The weather was good to hot, and the riders were happy to finish before 12pm, by which time the mercury was in the late 20’s.

Riders from Thinkbike marshalled the groups of cyclists and messaged in problem areas, and HAMNET provided 9 teams of roving marshals, patrolling consecutive portions of the race. All HAMNET rovers had APRS trackers, as did the 4 ambulances and one rapid response vehicle on the routes, and we provided a feed into the Metro bus which acted as the official medical JOC for the race. A temporary APRS digipeater was installed in the middle of the circuit, to improve beacons transmitted, and all trackers were visible in our HAMNET JOC.

We are aware of some minor injuries from a few falls, but no major calamities, and the cut-off times were very accurately planned, the back riders coming through each cut-off just before the gong, so to speak. So nobody except the voluntary retirees, were pulled off the race.

The organisers of the race were once again very gracious in their thanks to all volunteer groups, and HAMNET will be back again next year for our 12th participation in the event.

Thank you to the 14 operators who manned the JOC and did the roving. The organisers couldn’t have done  without us.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 3 February 2019

Anthony Forteath ZS2BQ has written in to report that this past Sunday the 27th January saw the Hamnet and Border Radio Club team assisting with the Ironman 70.3 event in Buffalo City (East London).  Ten radio amateurs in total assisted the race organisers with their communications throughout the event, which started at 06:45 and the final competitor crossing the finish line at around 16:00.

A portable repeater was temporarily installed on the 14th floor of one of the beachfront hotels to assist with communications to those manning the VOC and points down on the actual beachfront.

All in all another successful event, but fortunately a much quieter day than some past events, which saw our members very busy passing on information throughout the day.

A special word of thanks goes out to those who gave up their Sunday to be part of the event, which has become an institution on our calendar each year.

Anthony is Assistant Provincial Director for HAMNET East London.

In Brazil, search crews are still looking for up to 300 missing people in south-eastern Brazil, after a dam at an iron ore mining complex collapsed last Friday, releasing a deluge of muddy mine waste that swallowed part of a town. Since then, the death toll has risen to 60, according to Brazilian media outlets citing the area fire brigade, and the safety practices of the mine’s owner have come under scrutiny.

“Authorities say many of the missing are likely buried deep in mud,” Catherine Osborn reports for NPR from Brumadinho.

Fears that a second dam nearby might collapse forced a new evacuation and the suspension of search efforts late Sunday. The delicate work continued after water and sludge was pumped out, and the all-clear was given.

When that potential risk spiked on Sunday, a siren blared an alert, further unsettling thousands of residents. But it seems that the public might have received little or no public warning of Friday’s catastrophe.

The Vale mining company tells The Associated Press there are eight sirens in the area around its dam that failed — but that “the speed in which the event happened made sounding an alarm impossible” on Friday.

And,  as the disaster’s toll continues to rise, residents and a relief official are calling for the government to improve how it manages the risk of dams collapsing at Brazil’s mines.

“Federal officials have pledged to make mining regulations more strict,” Osborn reports. “But for many, this disaster has laid bare the difference between pledges and enforcement.”

Thank you to NPR for this excerpt from their report.

And by this Friday, Mining.com was reporting at least 99 people dead, and another 250 still missing.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that the DKARS (Dutch Kingdom Amateur Radio Society) issues its own free PDF Magazine once every month. It contains articles written in English and Dutch.

In case you would like to receive the free magazine, please register via   magazine@dkars.nl   and you will automatically receive the magazine via an email with a download link.

This month the Magazine has 33 pages and presents lots of interesting articles and other news.

Spare a thought now for some US states, which are under more than a metre of snow, wind chill which has sent temperatures as low as -59C, and with North America now facing its coldest winter in 50 years. Blizzards have gripped much of the mid-western United States, leaving many people stranded at home with snow piling up more than a metre high. US weather chiefs have advised against travel and even talking too much, as breathing the blistering cold air risks severe health problems. Both hypothermia and frostbite are major worries when temperatures stretch into bitter minus figures, and this has prompted some local governments to declare a state of emergency.

The upper central and mid-west states have been some of the worst hit by the extreme weather. However, the cause of the freezing temperatures gripping the US is a polar vortex, which has journeyed to the country directly from the North Pole.

Polar vortices exist in the north and south poles as a large area of low pressure and cold air.

The term ‘vortex’ refers to the counter-clockwise airflow in the system which keeps it in place above the poles.

As the seasons change, however, the vortex is warped, frequently weakening and regaining strength which causes it to move.

The vortex gathers strength in the winter months and expands, sending cold weather to the south via the polar jet stream. The jet stream is a ribbon of air which ‘streams’ high up in the atmosphere and transports weather systems in a channel of winds flowing from 130 to 230kph.

Through this mechanism, the polar vortex spreads air straight from the North Pole over the northern US and Canada.

These Arctic blasts are regular in America, but this year temperatures are already descending to historical lows.

Meanwhile, BBC News reports that Australia recorded its hottest month ever in January, with average temperatures exceeding 30C for the first time.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the extreme heat was “unprecedented” during the country’s summer period.

At least five January days were among the 10 warmest on record, with daily national temperature highs of 40C.

The heat has caused wildfire deaths, bushfires and a rise in hospital admissions.

Several wildlife species have also suffered, with reports of mass deaths of wild horses, native bats and fish in drought-affected areas.

A large swathe of the state of New South Wales bore the brunt of the fortnight of extreme heat, with temperatures also soaring in parts of Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

“We saw heatwave conditions affect large parts of the country through most of the month,” climatologist Dr Andrew Watkins said.

Records were broken for both duration and also individual daily extremes, he said. Rainfall was also below average for most areas.

HAMNET Western Cape will be shepherding the cyclists around the 99er Cycle Tour in Durbanville this coming Saturday. Let’s hope we are dealt neither snowstorms nor heatwaves for the day!

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.