HAMNET Report 16 September 2018

On diametrically opposite sides of the globe, two huge tropical storms are exerting their might on the weather.

Tropical Cyclone MANGKHUT-18, by far the bigger storm, is moving more or less due West across the Philippines, and threatening, China, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Vietnam, with maximum wind-speeds expected to be in the 280km/h range. The estimated population affected by winds in excess of 120km/h is nearly 7 million.

The northern tip of the Philippines have already been battered, and, as I write this on Saturday afternoon, the eye of the storm is East-Northeast of the tip of the Philippines, and bearing down on the coast of China, just South of Hong Kong. Its projected path will take it Westwards along the border of China and Vietnam, just North of Hanoi.

There are an awful lot of people living in those areas, in dwellings not very cyclone-proof, houses which have probably been destroyed and rebuilt many times by previous cyclones, and the population of 7 million threatened are therefore very vulnerable. We’ll keep watching the news dispatches for further detail.

On the other side of the globe, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) already had advanced plans and deployments in place for Hurricane FLORENCE, a Category 4 storm, approaching the Carolina States of the USA in a North-Easterly direction. By Monday just gone, FEMA had already positioned more than 80,000 litres of water, 402,000 meals, 1,200 cots and 34 generators at Fort Bragg near Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The projected path of Florence had it crossing the coast of North Carolina on Friday morning at about 7am our time. Wind-speeds of about 250km/h were expected as it crossed the coast.

The ARRL reported that it shipped seven Ham Aid kits to South Carolina by way of Georgia on September 11, to assist with emergency preparedness needs in advance of Hurricane Florence. These kits are the same ones that ARRL volunteers took to Puerto Rico a year ago to assist with disaster communications following Hurricane Maria.

“South Carolina ARES is fully activated,” ARRL South Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Billy Irwin, K9OH, told ARRL, adding that he’s been coordinating regularly with the state Emergency Management Division. “We have operators serving 12-hour shifts at the SC Emergency Management Division and will move to 24-hour coverage on Thursday. Two operators have been deployed to Berkeley County to assist with shelter operations at the request of the Emergency Coordinator there.” Irwin said information about frequencies in use is in the Tactical Guide on the South Carolina ARES website.

“We are literally modifying plans on the fly to meet the needs of the mission,” Irwin added. “Several ARRL Sections have offered assistance.”

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), at Alert Level 3, was closely monitoring three systems, Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac, and Invest 95L, currently in the Gulf of Mexico. The net  shifted its formal activation to Thursday, September 13, at 1300 UTC, as Florence closed in on the US east coast. The net activated on both its 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz frequencies and remained active around the clock, as needed. “Hurricane Florence is drawing a lot of concern for its size and strength, but more so for the potential flooding,” Assistant HWN Manager Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said.

HWN stations will be on both frequencies throughout the day and evening on Wednesday, September 12, to talk with stations in the coastal states. “We want to log their locations, their weather instrumentation and other pertinent information, so that when they are actively producing storm reports we already have them in the database,” Broadway said. “This will speed the reporting process Thursday and Friday as the storm does make landfall.”

WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Centre remained active through Friday, September 14, operating cooperatively with the HWN as net stations funnelled ground-level reports to the Centre. WX4NHC will monitor the HWN and the VoIP Hurricane Net (VoIPWX).

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Network (SATERN) announced plans to activate for Hurricane Florence from 1700 through 2100 UTC on Thursday, September 13, and to reactivate on Friday and Saturday at about 1600 UTC until propagation no longer supported it, or the Net Manager closed the net for the day.

And as I compiled this yesterday afternoon, ARRL News reported that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) announced that it shut down its activation for Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a Tropical Storm but still “a formidable system that will affect the coastal states for days,” HWN Assistant Manager Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said. “Because the storm is moving inland, Amateur Radio activity will shift to the various state and regional emergency nets,” Broadway added.

“While propagation was not good on 20 meters for the period, 40 meters afforded a fairly consistent contact with stations in the area,” Broadway recounted. “The net has been in operation for 38 hours.”

Over the course of its activation, listening for reports and relaying them to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) via WX4NHC, nearly 200 stations checked in, and the net took in approximately twice that number of reports.

“Many were not at severe levels, but all ‘ground truth’ [reports] assist in plotting the activity of the storm,” Broadway explained. WX4NHC will remain active through Friday.

As of 0000 UTC on September 15, the centre of Florence had moved into extreme eastern South Carolina, the National Hurricane Centre reported. “Life-threatening storm surges and strong winds will continue tonight,” the report said, “[with] catastrophic freshwater flooding expected over portions of North and South Carolina.”

The storm was some 15 miles north-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and about 55 miles east-southeast of Florence, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 70 MPH. Florence was moving to the west at a leisurely 3 MPH.

And, if you want a live feed from the Carolina Beach, Wilmington area, visit https://www.facebook.com/derekvandamfanpage/videos/   to see daily reports from Derek van Dam.

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

HAMNET Report 9 September 2018

Seeing that we are now at the start of Spring, I thought to present a bulletin that relates to time and its consequences. Let’s start with time on the Sun.

The Royal Observatory of Belgium’s Solar-Terrestrial Centre of Excellence (STCE) has asserted that the reverse-polarity sunspot group 2720 observed in late August belongs to the current solar cycle — cycle 24 — and does not represent the start of cycle 25 [as initially thought].

“Because of its reversed polarity, some websites claimed sunspot group 2720 was possibly one of the first groups of new Solar Cycle 25,” the Centre said. “This is simply not true, in view of its very low 8° latitude. The next Solar Cycle 25 sunspot group should have both reversed magnetic polarity and much higher heliographic latitude, typically 20° to 40° from the equator. Only two tiny, short-lived numbered sunspot groups are currently assigned to new Solar Cycle 25, sunspot group 2620 in December 2016 and 2694 in January 2018.”

STCE said that while both of those small sunspots have been assigned to cycle 25, some uncertainty exists as to just which sunspot cycle they actually belong to. STCE said some additional sunspot groups that belong to cycle 25 were so tiny and short-lived that they were not assigned a sunspot number. “During each solar cycle, about 3% of all active regions have reversed polarity but do not belong to the previous or next solar cycle,” the Centre said. “With 2,000 to 3,000 sunspot groups per solar cycle, this means that every solar cycle has a few dozen reverse-polarity sunspots that belong to the ongoing sunspot cycle despite their reverse polarity.”

After examining magnetograms of the sun’s surface, well-known Amateur Radio solar observer and propagation authority Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, agreed that AR2720 is reversed in polarity from other sunspots in the northern solar hemisphere. What confuses the issue, he said, is its low latitude, as a cycle 25 sunspot area should be at a much higher latitude.

The same weekend of sunspot group 2720, a radio blackout lasting about a day took place, affecting the HF amateur bands as well as GPS systems. Solar watcher Dr Tamitha Skov, in her YouTube report, called the G3-level geomagnetic storm “one of the top five storms of the solar cycle.”

Thanks to the ARRL Letter for that insert.

Now time on the air you can set your watch to.

VOANews.com reported on September the 2nd that President Donald Trump’s administration wants to shut down U.S. government radio stations that announce official time, a service in operation since World War II.

WWV and WWVB in the state of Colorado and WWVH on the island of Kauai in the mid-Pacific state of Hawaii, send out signals that allow millions of clocks and watches to be set either manually or automatically.

WWVB continuously broadcasts digital time codes, using very long electromagnetic waves at a frequency of 60 kilohertz, which are automatically received by timekeeping devices in North America, keeping them accurate to a fraction of a second.

“If you shut down these stations, you turn off all those clocks,” said Don Sullivan, who managed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) stations between 1994 and 2005.

Some argue the terrestrial time signals have been rendered obsolete by the government’s Global Positioning System, whose satellites also transmit time signals, but users disagree, noting GPS devices must have an unobstructed view of a number of satellites in space to properly function.

“Sixty kilohertz permeates in a way GPS can’t,” Sullivan told VOA, explaining that WWVB’s very low frequency signal can be received inside buildings and it is an important backup to GPS in case adversaries attempt to interfere with the satellite radio-navigation system.

WWV and WWVH broadcast on a number of shortwave frequencies, meaning their signals can be received globally.

WWV, the oldest continuously operating radio station in the United States, first went on the air from Washington in 1919, conducting propagation experiments and playing music. In the early years, it also transmitted — via Morse code — news reports prepared by the Agriculture Department.

The station subsequently was moved to Maryland and then to Colorado in 1966. WWV has been a frequency standard since 1922 and has disseminated official U.S. time since 1944.

All of the NIST stations rely on extremely precise atomic clocks for the accuracy of their time signals.

One second is defined as the period of the transition between two energy levels of the ground state of the Cesium-133 atom, making Cesium oscillators the primary standard for time and frequency measurements.

WWV, at two minutes past every hour, also transmits a 440 hertz note (A above middle C on a piano), something it has done since 1936, allowing musicians to tune their pianos and other instruments.

All three stations retain a huge following worldwide, according to Sullivan.

Tom Kelly, an amateur radio operator in the state of Oregon, has launched a petition to try to save the stations. Kelly’s petition calls the stations “an instrumental part in the telecommunications field, ranging from broadcasting to scientific research and education,” noting their transmissions of marine storm warnings, GPS satellite health reports and specific information about solar activity and radio propagation conditions.

Britain, China, Germany, Japan and Russia also have very low frequency time transmissions, but their stations are too distant to automatically set clocks in the United States.

Thanks to the Voice of America for this report.

Then, time in Europe.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that BBC News reports the EU Commission is proposing to end the practice of adjusting clocks by an hour in spring and autumn after a survey found most Europeans opposed it.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said millions “believe that in future, summer time should be year-round, and that’s what will happen”.

The Commission’s proposal requires support from the 28 national governments and MEPs to become law.

In the EU clocks switch between winter and summer under daylight saving time.

A European Parliament resolution says it is “crucial to maintain a unified EU time regime”.

However, the Commission has not yet drafted details of that proposed change.

And now it’s Time in South Africa to return you to the Amateur Radio Today Studio!

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

HAMNET Report 2 September 2018

On Wednesday 29th of August the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management department held an exercise with the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station to test their disaster processes under the watchful eyes of inspectors of the National Nuclear Regulator.  HAMNET participated with the exercise and were ready to provide emergency communication backup should any of the other existing services have failed (or be simulated to fail).

In matters of this scale there are multiple layers of redundancy to ensure that, even should multiple simultaneous faults occur for whatever reason, the situation would never put the general public at risk.

In preparation for the exercise, a mobile VHF/UHF cross-band repeater was installed at a high site known to provide suitable coverage to areas where other existing systems were struggling with coverage, and where coverage would be required.

Three HAMNET members participated with this exercise – Dean ZS1KP, Hendrik ZS1EEE and Alister ZS1OK.  After setting up the HAMNET communications room at Goodwood for the specific requirements necessitated for this exercise, we were able to follow the development of the exercise from the spill-over JOC – which had CCTV coverage of the active Disaster Management Operations Centre – where the exercise was playing itself out.

As could be expected there were a couple of curved balls thrown at the emergency management committee, but these were all dealt with very well and in due process and time.

In the end, due to the specifics of this exercise, the HAMNET members earmarked to be mobile operators in support of the exercise were not deployed, but it was a good training ground to follow the process as it unfolded from the spill-over JOC.

After the exercise was concluded, the mobile cross-band repeater was retrieved, and in preparation for future events, the radio coverage in some areas, and this experience, is to be included in future operating procedures.

Thank you to Alister ZS1OK, for providing these notes of the exercise.

KCCI News at Noon on August the 29th stated that the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico in 2017 is now the United States’ deadliest natural disaster in the last century.  A new study suggests nearly 3,000 people died after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. The government initially reported the death toll at 64.

While volunteering on the island with the American Red Cross, Juan Trujillo helped an amateur radio group re-establish communication among hospitals. Through their HAM radios, Trujillo said volunteers were able to determine which patients needed immediate help and could help facilitate trips to San Juan by ambulance or helicopter.

“They were critical, but they were still alive in the facility they were brought into,” he said. “After that, we did not know. I did not know if they were going to make it or not. We did not (ever) have that information.”

Trujillo said he trusts the increased reported death toll because of the destruction he saw in Puerto Rico.

“We knew the activity was real,” he said. “We knew the emergency was really a true emergency for everyone.”

Trujillo said that, despite the harrowing moments, he would volunteer again in a heartbeat. “A little bit of help was provided by my doing,” he said. “So yes, I would do it anytime.”

Puerto Rico’s governor commissioned an independent review of how the island responded to the hurricane. Trujillo said he hopes the review helps the island prepare for natural disasters in the future.

Southgate Amateur Radio News has reported that the National Telecommunications Commission of Honduras (abbreviated CONATEL in Spanish), delivered radio communications equipment to COPECO on August 22, 2018, that had been donated by ITU for emergency communications.

Honduras is part of a pilot project of ITU that includes Central America and the Caribbean, aiming to achieve full implementation in South America.

Miguel Alcaine, ITU Area D Representative, said: “The most important thing is that CONATEL, COPECO and the radio amateurs start working with the WinLink tool. I am very happy to know that we are doing something before disaster strikes”.

Lisandro Rosales, National Commissioned Minister of COPECO, stated that “one of COPECO’s objectives has been the strengthening of information and communication technologies (ICTs), and, thanks to them, the institution has one of the most powerful communications networks of the region, with coverage of 95% of the national territory”.

Minister Rosales also said that “We have realized that telecommunications is a key element in order to give early warnings and to warn about imminent danger, or to coordinate assistance or reconstruction activities”.

The cooperation agreement also includes a training process. To this effect, COPECO technicians, along with professionals of the 911 National Emergency System and CONATEL personnel, initiated a series of workshops, with the support of Honduran radio amateurs.

Omar Paredes, HR1OP, secretary of Club de Radio Aficionados Central de Honduras (CRACH), commented: “This program and radio equipment will allow first responders that work during emergencies to send information through radio waves in high-frequency (HF) bands, when telephone and digital communications collapse or if there are power outages”.

Now, in news from the ARRL, a team of moonbounce enthusiasts expect to activate the 32-meter dish antenna GHY-6 at Goonhilly, on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall (IO70jb) in the UK, on September 1 – 2, operating as GB6GHY. The group, including G8GTZ, G8GKQ, and G4NNS, will be on the HB9Q logger while operational, which should be between 0800 and 1200 UTC, but “earlier if possible,” they’ve said.

GB6GHY will concentrate on 3.4 GHz on September 1 and 5.7 GHz on September 2, with the ability to switch bands immediately.

“Anyone with a relatively small dish (3-meter or less) should be able to work us,” their announcement said. The European Space Agency is undertaking a project to upgrade Goonhilly Earth Station to track missions to the Moon and Mars. The work will see the GHY-6 antenna — which carried the 1985 Live Aid concert around the world — upgraded over the span of 2 years.

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