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.