HAMNET Report 12th September 2021

This week it is China’s turn to be in the Tropical Cyclone spotlight. On Tuesday, two storms running parallel to each other in a north-westerly direction were announced. Tropical Cyclone CHANTHU was aiming for the mid-eastern coastline of China, having skimmed over the top of the Philippines and threatening nearly 6 million souls. And Tropical Cyclone CONSON was going to cross central Philippines, before making landfall on China’s coastline, slightly more south of CHANTHU and bringing danger to over a million people in its path.

By Wednesday afternoon, a RED alert for CHANTHU was announced, potentially bringing winds of up to 260 km/h, and imminent danger to 7.4 million people in China.

On Wednesday morning, our Region One coordinator, Greg Mossop G0DUB reported that he had received a communique from the Region Two coordinator, Carlos Alberto Santamaria Gonzalez CO2JC about an earthquake that had just occurred in Acapulco, Mexico, perceptible in the country’s capital and whose preliminary data from the National Seismological System were a Magnitude of 6.9, an epicentre 14km southeast of Acapulco, on 7th September at 20h47 their time, and at a depth of 10km.

Zian Julio Aguirre Taboada, XE1ATZ, director of Mexico’s National Emergency Network reported that nets were already active on a frequency of 7120 kHz.

At the time of the communique there were no reports of structural damage or loss of life. CO2JC reported that they were monitoring the frequency for any calls for help.

In the face of a potentially disastrous storm like Hurricane Ida, people take to Twitter and other social media sites to communicate vital information. New research published in the journal Risk Analysis suggests that monitoring and analysing this social media “chatter” during a natural disaster could help decision makers learn how to plan for and mitigate the impacts of severe weather events in their communities.

Jose E. Ramirez-Marquez from the Stevens Institute of Technology and Gabriela Gongora-Svartzman from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College performed an analysis of more than six million Twitter posts over time during three major hurricanes that made landfall in 2017: Harvey (Texas), Irma (Florida), and Maria (Puerto Rico). The goal of their study was to develop and test a new method for measuring social cohesion, an important factor in a community’s resilience during the severe weather events brought on by climate change.

The methodology presented in Risk Analysis involves combining and implementing text processing techniques and graph network analysis to understand the relationships among nine different categories of Twitter users during a hurricane. These include citizens, media, government, entertainment, business, charity-NGOs-volunteers, sports, technology-science-education, and other verified accounts. Knowing who the participants are behind the messages can help researchers identify how authorities communicate which kinds of messages, how people affected by the hurricanes interact with them, and what their needs are.

Visualizations incorporated into the study illustrate the connections between social media participants and the degree of social cohesion throughout each hurricane’s timeline.

Social cohesion has been described as “the glue that holds society together.” It affects how a community comes together in times of need. Social cohesion can help reduce the number of vulnerabilities experienced by a community during a disaster and reduce the time it takes to rebuild. The stronger the social cohesion, the more resilient a community is.

Visualizations in the study illustrate the seven metrics that are combined to create a single measurement of social cohesion. One of those metrics is information dissemination. This refers to the intensity of tweets, or communication between participants, during the timeline captured for each hurricane. This timeline of social media activity for each hurricane shows how active participants were on each day before, during, and after the hurricane. A graph of the data shows that the intensity of communication peaks for each hurricane shortly before or shortly after it makes landfall. In the case of Maria in Puerto Rico, the analysis shows that a significant amount of conversation continues for more than a week after the hurricane ends—signifying that post-disaster management strategies were being put in place, rescues were occurring, and rebuilding efforts were starting to evolve.

The researchers hope this new method for tracking and visualizing social media communications during a severe storm can contribute to future risk management and disaster mitigation policies. “Because we identify the types of actors in a social network and how this network varies daily,  decision makers could use this measurement to release strategic communication before, during, and after a disaster strikes—thus providing relevant information to people in need,” says Ramirez-Marquez.

In light of the disastrous impacts of Hurricane Ida on the people of New Orleans, he adds, it is important to understand what happened during each storm to mitigate the impacts on the most vulnerable people. “If we had a national database of the social media communications pre-during-post disaster then we would be able better to identify the needs of a community and the limitations of current policy and response,” says Ramirez-Marquez. “It is concerning that the communities that experienced the harshest effects during Katrina will again be harshly affected during Ida. This shows a lack of learning from past events.”

Thanks to Phys.org for this interesting research report.

The ARRL reports that Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) founder Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF — an assistant professor in The University of Scranton’s Physics and Engineering Department — has been awarded a grant through the NASA Space Weather Applications Operations Phase II Research Program. Frissell will serve as principal investigator for a research project entitled, “Enabling Space Weather Research with Global Scale Amateur Radio Datasets.” He’ll collaborate with Philip Erickson, W1PJE, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Haystack Observatory and Bill Engelke, AB4EJ, at the University of Alabama.

“This grant includes significant funding for participation of Scranton undergraduate students in this research, as well as support for new computation resources,” Frissell said. He explained that the grant will fund “the development of an empirical model for the prediction of traveling ionospheric disturbances (TIDs) in high-frequency radio communications while investigating the geophysical drivers of these disturbances.” The grant will cover 2 years of work.

Frissell said that the predictive, empirical TID models will be developed using data collected by the Reverse Beacon Network, WSPR, and PSKreporter — all automated, global-scale radio communication observation networks operated by the amateur radio community. Undergraduate students will help the faculty researchers to create algorithms used for the model development.

Professor Frissell is to be congratulated for the manner in which he has drawn amateur radio in to Citizen Science.

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