REPORT 2016-07-10

The most prominent news of the emergency communications week, has been Cyclone Nepartak-16, which made landfall in Taiwan on Friday morning very early. By Saturday, 3 deaths and 142 injured persons had been reported on, as the cyclone tore through the Eastern city of Taitung, with winds of 240kph, or 150mph. Torrential rain and wind preceded the cyclone, but fortunately the rugged and mountainous terrain of Taiwan slowed the cyclone down to a Typhoon, as it left Taiwan on its way to strike the Chinese mainland. More than 16000 people were evacuated from the worst affected areas in Taiwan, two railway systems in the country are out of service, and most flights out of Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport were cancelled on Friday.

According to information received from International Amateur Radio Union Region 3 (IARU-R3), the Philippine Amateur Radio Association’s Ham Emergency Radio Operations (HERO) network activated on July 7 at 2145 UTC, as fears arose that super typhoon Nepartak could amplify the effects of the southwest monsoon. Heavy rains in some areas caused schools to preemptively cancel classes.

HERO operator DV7DRP opened the net on 7095 kHz at 2300 UTC on July 7 with relay net controls DU1IVT, DU7DUG, and DU1EQ. Propagation necessitated relays and a handoff of net control duties to DU1VHY.

Rainfall of varying intensity was reported, but flooding on the streets of affected areas was mostly minor. River conditions in the metro Manila area were also being tracked, with the Marikina River at 13.7 meters. In general, rainfall has concentrated in the central Luzon and Metropolitan Manila areas. Thanks to Roberto Vicencio DU1VHY for this latter report.

From the Pacific Ocean comes news that research into the radioactivity of the waters after the Fukushima Nuclear disaster reveals that radiation levels across the Pacific are rapidly returning to normal five years after the nuclear meltdown. The sea water meant to cool the reactors instead carried radioactive elements back into the Pacific, with currents dispersing it widely. Within five years, Caesium, a by-product of nuclear power and highly soluble in water was detected on the Western shores of the USA. After analyzing data from 20 studies, radiation levels were found to be rapidly returning to normal after being tens of millions of times higher than usual following the disaster. Between 2011 and 2015, unsafe levels of radioactive materials in fish studied reduced from being present in half the fish to less than 1% of the fish. However the seafloor and harbour near the nuclear plant were still highly contaminated, so monitoring must continue.

No-one is recorded as having died directly from the nuclear spill, but tens of thousands of people were uprooted from the area, and still haven’t returned.

A report from the IARU Region 1 webpage mentions the success of the Emergency Communications Forum held at Friedrichshafen in the last week of June. An average of 20 people from 10 countries attended the meetings on Friday the 24th June. The range of topics included reports from other regions, a report on the GlobalSET exercise of the previous year, proposals to change the IARU Emergency message procedure, and information on the Emergency Communications groups in Germany, Poland and Slovenia. Planning now starts for next year’s meetings during the same Hamfest from 14-16 July 2017.

From the website comes news of an interesting thin polymer layer of plastic which starts to oscillate or move by itself when exposed to direct sunlight. The polymer contains light-sensitive molecules called azo-dyes, which oscillate, bend and stretch in  sunlight. Since they are bound within the polymer network, the material oscillates as if cramped.

One of the main uses of the material might be as a self-cleaning surface, because sand and dust would have difficulty sticking to it if exposed to the sun. This technology could be applied to solar panel surfaces in the desert, or anywhere for that matter, where cleaning capabilities might be limited.

Again, the Western parts of the country have been subjected to extremely cold conditions this week, and snow was forecast and sighted in many areas. The Snow Report mentions the du Toitskloof mountains, The Hex River Valley, De Doorns, Sutherland and the surrounding areas, The Cedarberg at Citrusdal, Ladismith in the Klein Karoo, The Matroosberg range, and the Brandwacht Mountains. Forecasts in the week were for snow in the Swartberge, the Outeniqua and Kouga ranges, high-lying areas around Graaff Reinet, and then the KwaZulu Natal Midlands as well as Mooi River and surrounds, and the Sani Pass. A week of clear night skies has resulted in increased heat radiation into the atmosphere, dropping ground temperatures and dew points and making morning frost a reality over the whole country.

After a week or two of absolute quiet, the Sun has woken up and produced 4 sunspot groups since yesterday (Saturday). This has increased the Solar Flux index slightly to 87. However, a high speed solar stream, resulting from a coronal hole mass ejection, has caused minor geomagnetic storming, which kept the planetary K index high in the 4-5 region, blocking out HF communications. Even Near Incidence Vertical Skywave propagation has been limited to the 80 metre band, in the sort of distances HAMNET operators might benefit from, and bulletin relays we are attempting in the Western Cape are not reliably being heard. Please attempt to remain radio-active in the cold wintery weather, in spite of poor propagation conditions, to assist your fellow South African.

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