Monday, June 10, 2019

"Near-Normal" Atlantic Hurricane Season Predicted

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA – is predicting a "near normal" Atlantic hurricane season this year, with between 9 and 15 named storms, of which 4 to 8 might become hurricanes, half of which could become major hurricanes (category 3 or higher). The forecast from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center does not predict the possibility of landfalls. 

Forecasters say competing climate factors will likely cancel out each other's effects, leading to the likelihood of an average season. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 of each year.

Hurricane Response Was Key Element of Amateur Radio Demonstration

A major hurricane with mass casualties in the mid-Atlantic and New England states was the scenario for a demonstration of amateur radio's ability to transmit and receive messages without commercial power, telecommuni-cations infrastructure or permanent stations. The ARRL reports that the demonstration involved roughly a dozen hams from South Carolina to Maine and was held in coordi-nation with both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross. 

A combination of voice and digital modes was used by participating hams to transmit messages to ARRL Headquarters station W1AW, from which they were relayed to a joint Red Cross-FEMA meeting under way in Baltimore. The League reports that Red Cross officials monitoring the test were impressed with hams' ability to match Red Cross message formats in their digital messages, which were sent using fldigi and flmsg.

FT4 Beta "Release Candidate 7" in Use Until Mid-July

Sample FT4 screen (from WSJT-X website)
An improved "release candidate" version of the WSJT-X 2.1.0 digital program suite – including the new contest-focused FT4 mode – was made available for testing in early June and should be in use through the end of the CQ World Wide VHF Contest on July 2, although its availability during the contest is uncertain. 

Release candidate 7 was issued after a "serious bug" was discovered in version 6, according to the ARRL. The newest version features several enhancements over previous release candidates. A mock contest was held on June 4 and 5 to test the new software under "real-world" conditions. Co-developer Joe Taylor, K1JT, reported on that he operated for approximately three hours, making 143 contacts in 29 states, 5 Canadian provinces and 15 DX locations. 

FT4 will not be available for use during the ARRL June VHF Contest or ARRL Field Day. It is unclear whether it will be available during the CQ World Wide VHF Contest on July 20-21, as Taylor says he anticipates a "general release" version of the software by "mid-July." For more about FT4, see June CQ's "Contesting" column and the July issue's "VHF-Plus" column.
In a related item, the ARRL reports that the latest TQSL update for its Logbook of the World (LoTW) program includes FT4 as a submode of MFSK. In addition, the 11.8 update includes two new satellites, AISAT-1 and PO-101.