HAMNET Report 14th June 2020

Writing in NCAR news, Laura Snider reports that Solar scientists have taken a mathematical technique used by Earth scientists to analyse cyclic phenomena, such as the ebb and flow of ocean tides, and applied it to the confounding irregularity of cycles on the Sun. The result is an elegant “Sun clock” that shows that solar activity starts and stops on a much more precise schedule than could be discerned when looking at observations of the Sun in the traditional way – plotted linearly over time.

The new research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was led by the University of Warwick in England and involved researchers from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and NASA.

The sun clock could be used as a planning tool to help keep space- and ground-based infrastructure safe.

The clock was created using a technique known as the Hilbert transform to convert the linear observations of past solar cycles onto a circle, stretching and shrinking the cycles as necessary to a standard 11 years. As the cycles were overlaid on top of each other on the clock’s face, distinct “times” on the clock face when solar activity is flipped on and off came into focus.

“Scientists spend their lives trying to read the book of nature,” said Sandra Chapman, a professor at the University of Warwick who led the study. “Sometimes we create a new way to transform the data, and what appeared to be messy and complicated is suddenly beautifully simple. In this instance, our Sun clock method showed clear switch on and switch off times demarcating quiet and active intervals for space weather for the first time.”

The idea of applying a Hilbert transform to sunspot data was born out of a chance meeting at a conference in 2018, when Chapman, a plasma physicist, suggested that co-author Robert Leamon, a NASA scientist, apply the transform to help make sense of another project he was working on that involved the cyclic nature of El Niño.

“The Hilbert transform is a really powerful technique across all of science,” said Leamon, also of the University of Maryland. “When we applied it to sunspots, we saw it tied to the sharp switch-on of activity that we’d seen elsewhere. Further analysis of the geomagnetic data revealed the switch off as well.”

The creation of the solar clock is part of a larger body of research that makes a case that the Sun’s cycles are far more predictable and regular than scientists realize. For example, Leamon and study co-author Scott McIntosh, NCAR deputy director, have identified “terminator” events on the Sun, which they say offer observational evidence of the start and stop of solar cycles, something that has been estimated in the past.

“The Sun is not nearly as irregular as we thought,” McIntosh said. “But we’ve been looking in the wrong places. Once you realize that the Sun is actually adhering to a larger cycle, and that the appearance and disappearance of sunspots are just a symptom of that cycle, not the cycle itself, you see a beautiful order in the chaos. The striking regularity we find in this new sun clock is evidence of that.”

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that the Hindustan Times reports 9 amateur radio operators came to the aid of district officials during Cyclone Nisarga last week.

As all modes of communication collapsed in less than half-an-hour after severe cyclone Nisarga made landfall over Raigad district last Wednesday, a group of nine independent ham radio operators using wireless communication became the eyes and ears for the district administration. Their centres? A station without a roof in Shrivardhan, the district headquarters in Alibag and vehicles in Mahabaleshwar.

The entire exercise from the afternoon of June 2nd  to the evening of June the 5th (when mobile network availability returned in some areas), saw continuous relays of information about deaths, injuries, evacuations, the scale of the damage (tree losses, falling power lines, and damaged network towers), and relief and rehabilitation requirements across low-lying areas in Shrivardhan, Mhasala, Dighi, Murud, Revdanda, Nagaon, Revas, and Alibag areas in Raigad, from the police, local authorities and citizens, to radio operators who in turn relayed them to the authorities across different areas.

Here’s another feel-good story from Southgate Amateur Radio News about a West Virginia paramedic who kept the watch of a mine disaster survivor for 10 years and who was reunited with his patient for the first time last week.

Whitesville Paramedic Terry Vermillion was able to return the watch he removed from then mine-electrician James Woods while starting an IV line, after meeting with him last week, the Coal Valley News reported.

“I can’t really put into words how good it feels to be here right now,” Vermillion told the Coal Valley News. “Finally, these items are back where they belong.”

Woods’ family agreed to meet with Vermillion, a 36-year EMS veteran, after seeing an interview Vermillion gave to the newspaper last month expressing his desire to return the watch.

Woods, an Army veteran, was among two injured miners who survived the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster on April 5, 2010, that killed 29 mine workers. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that affects his memory, according to his wife Teresa Woods, who serves as his caregiver. Teresa Woods said her family has stayed private after the disaster due to the pain of talking about it, but that they wanted to thank Vermillion because keeping the watch for 10 years in the hopes of returning it showed how much he cared about his patient.

And that, of course, is how it should be!

Finally, my coronavirus message of the week is to ask you all to recognise the fact that, not only are you less likely to give your Covid-19 to someone else, by wearing a mask, but you are nearly 5 times less likely to get the disease from someone else if you wear a mask! Recent research from the UK shows that you have a 14% chance of becoming infected if exposed, if you don’t wear a mask, and only a 3% chance of becoming infected if you do wear a mask. And please remember, that also applies if you wear the mask over your mouth, but have your nose exposed. You might then as well not be wearing the darn thing. PLEASE don’t be inconsiderate to your friends and loved ones, or negligent enough to allow yourself to become infected because you didn’t wear your mask correctly.

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