HAMNET Report 16th June 2024

Next weekend sees the ARRL Field Day event, during which individuals, groups and ham radio clubs set up off-grid radio stations, and practise making contacts in conditions similar to disasters, locally and around the world.

It is a 24 hour event, taking place on 22nd and 23rd June, and, depending on band conditions, calls for a contact may be audible in South Africa, on all HF ham bands, So if you are listening to your radio, and hear an increased volume of HF traffic next weekend, join in if you can, and give the American Hams some contacts.

The Daily Maverick reports that the combination of the devastating tornado that struck the North Coast of KZN, and the severe rainfall in the Eastern Cape, and snowfalls of the Free State the week before led to the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) classifying the severe weather events in the Eastern Cape, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal as a “national disaster”. 

Last week’s floods, strong winds, tornadoes and snowfalls resulted in devastation across the three provinces and caused deaths, injuries, significant property damage, extensive damage to infrastructure and environmental degradation. The damage is estimated at R1.3 billion, with the eThekwini metro accounting for more than R490 million.

Head of the National Disaster Management Centre Dr Elias Sithole said the scale of the incidents had surpassed the capacity of the affected communities to manage the disaster using their resources, and as such, the centre had classified the situation as a national disaster due to its impact on at least three provinces, as per Section 23(6) of the Disaster Management Act.

This signifies a formal recognition from the government that the events pose a significant threat to health, public safety or the environment which municipal and provincial governments cannot address on their own.

The primary responsibility for coordinating and managing this disaster now falls under the national executive which will use legislation and contingency plans to deal with the crisis.

Meanwhile, foxweather.com has announced that NASA rolled out a new program to use what it learns from space to help organizations respond to hurricanes, floods, heat waves and other weather-driven events on Earth. 

The U.S. space agency continues to use data from its more than a dozen Earth-observing satellites to help government agencies like FEMA respond to disasters, but on Thursday, NASA announced its Disaster Response Coordination System (DRCS), making its resources available in one place for anyone to access. 

The idea is to close that last mile between what we know within the science community and the community of people who can put that science to use to inform decisions they have to make on the ground every day,” said Karen St. Germain, NASA Earth Sciences Division director. “Leaders at all levels, from neighborhoods to nations, need actionable information, and they needit where and when they need it.”

NASA’s DRCS Manager Joshua Barnes said the goal is to offer its full suite of Earth-observing resources to aid disaster response organizations worldwide. 

“This insight can be used to drive resource allocation decisions, take protective actions, and support the staging of disaster relief services, all using Earth Observation sciences,” Barnes said.

As an interesting aside in the discussion of how the world would survive disaster, iflscience.com speculates on the top five life forms that might survive an apocalyptic disaster.

Top of the list is our favourite microscopic creature, the Tardigrade. Tardigrades have been known to survive in just about every extreme environment Earth can throw at them. According to National Geographic, they are the “most indestructible animal on Earth”. They can claw their way through sand dunes, survive being frozen, and even live at high altitudes. 

Next on the list is the humble Cockroach which survived the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, so they’ve got a pretty good chance of surviving the next global catastrophic event. 

Part of the reason for their success is both their size and their dietary habits. These flat-bodied insects can squeeze themselves into tiny crevices other critters can’t reach for protection, including inside soil. Plus, rather than relying on one type of food source, they will pretty much consume anything even if it isn’t technically food.

Depending on the conditions of the disaster, some animals could actually benefit from a global crisis. Vultures, for example, may also be able to survive something like a zombie apocalypse and with plenty of undead carrion around, could even thrive. They even have specially adapted stomachs with acid capable of digesting some pretty nasty bacteria, so potentially would be able to stomach some zombie guts. So vultures are awarded third position.

In the sea, we should not overlook the family of about 500 species of Shark. They are known to have lived through both World Wars and nuclear weapons tests and the evidence is right there in their eyes, where radiocarbon dating shows their age.  Sharks have also been around on Earth since before trees, and before Saturn had rings, so there’s a good chance at least one of the species of shark would survive. 

 The wildcard entry at number five is the Emperor Penguin. Emperor penguins can survive some of the most brutal cold temperature extremes the Antarctic can throw at them, including wind speeds of 200 kilometres per hour and temperatures of −50°C. They can also survive several weeks without eating by living off fat reserves. They occupy some of the most remote areas on Earth and therefore could be able to avoid zombies or disease spread by simple logistics. 

Interesting to note that the ultimate apex predator, the human being, features nowhere on this list!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR, not expecting to survive the next apocalyptic disaster, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.