HAMNET Report 16th October 2022

After the passage of Hurricane JULIA over Central America on 9-10 October, at least 24 people died, as reported by national authorities in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

In Guatemala, four are still missing and 11 others sustained injuries due to floods and landslides. About 1,165 people were displaced to evacuation centres and up to 457,300 individuals were affected. In El Salvador, 10 people died, while evacuation operations for the local population continued due to the overflow of several rivers. Floods and overflowing rivers have been affecting Honduras as well, where at least four people died and one is missing, while a number of residents have been evacuated to shelters.

Two individuals were injured and about 5,000 others were affected in San Andrés and Providencia Archipelago (Colombia), while in Nicaragua, where JULIA made landfall as a Category 1 storm in the early morning of 9th October, a number of people were affected by heavy rainfall and strong winds.

HAMNET Western Cape has been asked to assist the Voortrekkers here, on the night of the 22nd of October, when they do a night march. The idea is that they will have teams departing from a set point once it is dark and then every 15 minutes thereafter. The location of the start is between Malmesbury, Wellington and Riebeek Kasteel. They will require about 10 radio operators. The event could end any time between 23h00 and 02h00 or later the next morning, depending on the navigational skills of the teams. Each of the teams will be issued with one of our APRS trackers, and HAMNET will set up an APRS receiver and computer, to be able to track them all. There will be place to set up camp at their HQ, but more details are still awaited. Michael, ZS1MJT, our Regional Director hopes fellow HAMNET members will quickly volunteer to assist. The 22nd is a Saturday night, and radio operators don’t go out socializing on Saturday nights, so there should be a huge number of volunteers available!

Wonderful news from NASA, folks! The Astronomy Community has announced that the DART satellite that pranged into Dimorphos about 3 weeks ago shortened the little moon’s orbit around its parent asteroid Didymos by 32 minutes. 73 seconds difference would have satisfied the scientists, who worked out that that was all that was needed for proof of concept. Now the moon is in a lower orbit around Didymos than before, and takes 11 hours and 23 minutes to orbit its parent.

Now the real mathematics starts. The clever scientists have to work out how much momentum, either positive or negative was transferred to the moon, and therefore how much per unit mass of a future asteroid will be necessary to shift that one, if it is discovered to be on an earth-threatening path. The calculations will get easier and easier, apparently, with time and with future observations.

What is complicating the math, is the fact that the impact caused a huge plume of debris and dust to explode off Dimorphos’ surface, which is now trailing behind the moon like a comet’s tail. The explosion of this tail has an equal and opposite effect on the moon, adding to the momentum imparted on it by the satellite. It will be difficult to predict the composition of future threatening asteroids, and therefore how much ejecta, as it is called, will be thrown up, and therefore whether that will add or subtract from the effect of a future collision on a future asteroid.

Phew! The mind boggles at the complexity of it all. But at least the experiment worked!

Here’s something you make you pause for thought. Phy.org says that 5.3 billion cell phones will become waste in the year 2022. Apparently there are a staggering 16 billion cell phones possessed worldwide at present, meaning, on average, each person that breathes, has just over two cell phones in his or her possession!

More than five billion phones will likely be discarded or stashed away in 2022, experts said on Thursday, calling for more recycling of the often hazardous materials they contain.

Stacked flat on top of each other, that many disused phones would rise 50,000 kilometres into space, more than a hundred times higher than the orbit of the International Space Station, the WEEE research consortium found.

Despite containing valuable gold, copper, silver, palladium and other recyclable components, almost all these unwanted devices will be hoarded, dumped or incinerated, causing significant health and environmental harm.

“Smartphones are one of the electronic products of highest concern for us,” said Pascal Leroy, Director General of the WEEE Forum, a not-for-profit association representing forty-six producer responsibility organizations.

“If we don’t recycle the rare materials they contain, we’ll have to mine more of them in countries like China or Congo,” Leroy told AFP.

Many of the five billion phones withdrawn from circulation will be hoarded rather than dumped in the trash, according to a survey in six European countries from June to September 2022.

This happens when households and businesses forget cell phones in drawers, closets, cupboards or garages rather than bringing them in for repair or recycling. Up to five kilograms of e-devices per person are currently hoarded in the average European family, the report found.

According to the new findings, 46 percent of the 8,775 households surveyed considered potential future use as the main reason for hoarding small electrical and electronic equipment.

Another 15 percent stockpile their gadgets with the intention to sell them or give them away, while 13 percent keep them due to “sentimental value”.

At the same time, thousands of tons of e-waste are shipped from wealthy nations—including members of the European Union—to developing countries every year, adding to their recycling burden.

At the receiving end, financial means are often lacking for e-waste to be treated safely: hazardous substances such as mercury and plastic can contaminate soil, pollute water and enter the food chain, as happened near a Ghanaian e-waste dumpsite.

Research carried out in the West African nation in 2019 by the IPEN and Basel Action Network revealed a level of chlorinated dioxins (which are byproducts of plastic structure) in hens’ eggs laid near the Agbogbloshie dumpsite, near central Accra, 220 times higher than levels permitted in Europe.

I’d better go through my bedside drawer and dispose of the pile of ewaste gathering there!

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