Hi Everyone & Happy New Year!
With the turning of the calendar itâ€™s natural that one reflects on the past & thinks about the future.
In my case these last few days I have found this to be especially true. As I am encountering two milestones in my life.
One, being my reaching age fifty, which if I start weeping about again Iâ€™ll short out the keyboard (again) & the other being me celebrating my thirtieth year in Amateur Radio.
What drew my attention to Ham Radio was severe weather and the weather nets.
For a moment, lets journey back in time, to when I first heard of Ham Radio.
It was 1973 & I was a 15-year-old kid interested in meteorology. There was a tornado warning & my sister Diane called and said â€œtune around 146 on the dial & you can hear the Civil Defense talking about the storm.â€
Well, she was partly right, they were talking about the storm. Something called the Alabama Emergency Net X-ray with a weird call sign W4CUE.
With every storm you would find me listening & I learned that these were â€œham radio operatorsâ€ & I began to want to be one of them.
Things were a little different then. The National Weather Service was called the US Weather Bureau, and was located near the Birmingham Airport, as they hadnâ€™t moved to their future location on 11 West Oxmoor Road. The current location wasnâ€™t even imagined.
Nexrad Radar did not exist. Nor did the Birmingham office have radar. The one radar site in Alabama was at Centerville. This was the old WSR57, which had a CRT like a sonar screen in old submarine movies. Someone had to watch the screen constantly when storms were possible to make sure nothing important was missed and the storms were tracked using grease pencils, and the forecasters had to manually turn a crank to adjust the radar’s scan elevation.
During severe weather the Birmingham Amateur Radio Club would send an operator to the Weather Bureau. When a watch was issued the operator would read the entire script, not, just a county outline or â€œfor Jefferson Countyâ€.
â€œThe National Severe Storms Laboratory has issued a Tornado Watch 784 for Southern Mississippi & Central Alabama until 7PM CDT. This watch is along & 70 statute miles either side of a line for 30 miles southwest of Greenville Mississippi to 10 miles north of Gadsden Alabama. Tornadoes, hail up to 3 inches in diameter and damaging thunderstorm winds are possible in and close to the watch areaâ€.
This type detail is still available, for all watches & warnings also, with updated tornado position reports, though it is now rarely ever transmitted. One problem being that not everyone knows where to get the information. Another reason being the theory that perhaps it is too much information, that â€œpeople just tune it outâ€ and that it just ties the frequency up, thus preventing storm and damage reports.
Others say that perhaps the opposite may be true â€“ that people wonâ€™t tune in unless the information is there and that that information, even if annoying to some, helps listeners make decisions that lead to lives saved & allow storm spotters to better target their storm surveillance. Plus the details give the sense of urgency, that this is a real problem…donâ€™t ignore it.
I guess like all things in life, it has to be a balance and sometimes itâ€™s hard to balance the two approaches. Iâ€™ll admit Iâ€™m a weatherholic & like to hear whatâ€™s going on & figure that others do too. And, since the younger generation of hams doesnâ€™t know how things were done in the â€œOlden Daysâ€ some tend to get uptight & downright testy when some of us old weather dogs revert to Old School Skywarn methods & give more than basic rudimentary details. And, this occasionally leads to some very interesting commentary on the operator, his methods and his parentage.
As I look back I remember some of the old Net Managers of the AENX & now called the Jefferson County Emergency Net â€“ Louis Bohorfoush – WB4CXD, Harry Rakes – WB4AYO, Joe Smith â€“ WA4RNP, Boyd Bradshaw â€“ KB4GDN, a lady named Teresa Wellsâ€“ KQ4JC and some kid named Steven Moss KB4FKN.
Their dedication and service to the Ham community should never be overlooked.
Nor, should the service and dedication of our ALERT.
And, I think our future is bright. New tools are steadily becoming available to us & other innovations like Phase Array Doppler Radar loom on the horizon. And, when I thing of the changes that have occurred in just the last five years, I canâ€™t wait to see what our tomorrow holds.
I remember telling my Mom â€œI want to be a ham operatorâ€ & her saying â€œOK, if you promise me you wonâ€™t go chasing tornadoesâ€.
Well…. that eventually proved to be a promise blown to smithereens â€“ and me almost with it, which is a story that will wait for another time.
Looking back over the thirty years, itâ€™s been a fun, wacky, sometimes hair pulling, but rarely boring ride that I donâ€™t regret.
So, how about lets shoot for sixty years?
Iâ€™m game. Get â€˜er done.
Weather Radar â€“ A National Resource
I spoke earlier of the old WSR57 radar. Back then, in the Stone Age, there were only 66 radar sites nationwide. Today we are blessed with a transcontinental network of WSRD88â€™s. Every weather office has a Nexrad radar unit â€“ 118 of them. Which is the most sensitive, most detailed radar network on the planet.
No other nation has this resource that we have. Australia has a good radar picket of their coast, but nothing inland over the deserts. Even our deserts are radar covered. Britain has decent radar system now, but, it only updates every 15 minutes & Europe has radar, but any one of our local TV stations has a better radar system than they do.
Think of Birmingham for a moment. At any given time we are being painted by radar from Shelby County, Columbus AFB, Montgomery, Ft. Rucker, Hytop/Huntsville & Atlanta/Peach Tree City. Not to mention the broadcast station radar.
So, next time you are looking at that radar image, just remember how unique it is and realize that we are spoiled totally rotten.
January is named for the Roman god Janus, the god of gates and doors, and so openings and beginnings.
January receives more sunlight than December, but the equilibrium between incoming solar heat and the heat radiated into space by the northern snowfields does not peak until late January and early February, six weeks after winter solstice. So the weather continues to cool, with January 8 â€“ 20 being the coldest part of the year.
The precipitation pattern usually is in the form of rain, but invasions of cold air can bring frost, snow and tornadoes.
There is a 53% chance of up to one inch of snow & a 25% chance of over one inch of snow.
Barometric pressure is highest in January.
Januaryâ€™s Full Moon is â€œWolf Moonâ€ in Native American folklore.
This monthâ€™s meeting will be on January 8 at 7PM at the National Weather Service
Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.I hope to see you there. Mark / WD4NYL