Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Hurricane Watch Net on 7268/14325 kHz - Please Keep Clear

The Hurricane Watch Net is active around the clock on 7268 and/or 14325 kHz as Hurricane Michael approaches the US Gulf Coast. Landfall is expected later today (10/10). Please keep these frequencies clear for net operations and do not transmit to the net unless you need assistance or have information to provide from affected areas.

NOAA Weather Radar image of Hurricane Michael as of
1330 UTC on Wednesday, October 10, 2018
 The Hurricane Watch Net is looking specifically for the following information: observed ground-truth data from those in the affected area (wind speed, wind gusts, wind direction, barometric pressure;  if available, rainfall, damage, and storm surge). Measured weather data is always appreciated but we do accept estimated. For updates and more information, visit <>.

Please note:
As the storm makes landfall and moves inland, additional HF and VHF emergency nets are likely to become active throughout the affected areas. No matter where you are operating, please listen before transmitting and ask if a frequency is in use. This is to avoid unknowingly interfering with stations operating on a net that you might not be able to hear.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

FCC Cracks Down on Uncertified VHF/UHF Gear, With Hams Caught in the Middle

The FCC has issued a broad warning to importers, retailers and users of certain "low-cost two-way VHF/UHF radios that do not comply with the FCC's (equipment certification) rules … and are frequently imported into the United States." These include some brands and models that are popular among hams. The FCC points out that devices that operate "only on frequencies that the FCC has allocated for use by Amateur Radio Service licensees, it does not require FCC equipment authorization, and an amateur licensee may use his or her license to operate such radios." However, the same paragraph notes that "(i)f a two-way VHF/UHF radio is capable of operating outside of the amateur frequency bands, it cannot be imported, advertised, sold, or operated with the United States without an FCC equipment certification." (emphasis added)
This leaves hams in a quandary – the traditional FCC view on radios capable of operating outside the amateur bands has been that they're OK for hams to use within the amateur bands and on authorized frequencies outside the ham bands, such as those used for MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) operation. This new memo, however, suggests that no one, including hams, may legally use these radios at all, if they are capable of operating outside the ham bands. The ARRL says it is in discussions with FCC enforcement officials to try to clarify the situation.

Cycle 25? Not Quite Yet…

There's been some hopeful excitement among sunspot watchers that a group of sunspots observed in late August with reverse magnetic polarity to most of the solar cycle 24 sunspots might signal the start of cycle 25. However, the ARRL Letter says the Royal Observatory of Belgium's Solar-Terrestrial Centre of Excellence has splashed cold water on that theory (the water vaporized instantly, of course!). 

Solar Dynamics Observatory photos of sunspot groups 2720
and 2719 last summer. The white areas indicate a positive
magnetic field while the black areas are negative. Normally,
they are opposite of each other on different sides of the solar
equator (in the center of the photo), but group 2720 was
reversed. This is sometimes a sign of a new solar cycle.
However, the Royal Observatory of Belgium says these
sunspots were too close to the equator to indicate the start
of cycle 25. (NASA SDO Image)
The center noted that while the magnetic polarity of sunspots typically reverses with a change of cycle, spots from a new cycle also need to originate in the mid-solar latitudes, "typically 20° to 40° from the equator." The sunspots in this group were observed at only about 8° solar latitude. The center says every sunspot cycle has several dozen reverse polarity sunspots that are identified with the current cycle despite being magnetically "upside-down." 

So we'll have to keep waiting… (but keep listening and keep calling CQ. There are lots of band openings, even during solar minimum, that are missed because everyone thinks they won't be there! – ed.)