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.