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Hi Everyone & Happy New Year.

I hope that Santa treated you well and that Father Time will be kind to you also.

As we unwind from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember that our next ALERT meeting is on January 9th.

Other important dates to remember are:

The Blount County Freezefest 2018 will be Saturday January 6, from 8 to 12 Noon,

Winter Field Day will he held January 27 & 28.

The Birmingham Hamfest is only nine weeks away, March 2 & 3.
This year, as with last year, will be a Friday & Saturday affair.

I hope you can attend these events

On a personal note, as of December 27, I have now been a ham radio operator for 40 years. WD4NYL is my original call, I never changed it, as I still remember the first time I saw it on my Novice license, and feeling that a minor miracle had occurred.

If you are not an Amateur Radio Operator, I invite you to join one of the most enjoyable hobbies to be found!

See &

May you and yours have the most prosperous of New Years!


ALERT Newsletter Guideline

When I assumed the reins as ALERT President back in 2007 one of the goals I had was to revive a Newsletter for ALERT. The concept was that it would be used to keep everyone aware major ALERT events, serve as a training tool, and as a monthly reminder that “ALERT is alive and well”. The Newsletter is a gentle PR tool, a beloved form of “spam” that for ten years has invaded people’s inboxes, and is one of the few newsletters still in publication.

What started as a central Alabama audience has now spread and has attained a southeastern, and even a national audience.

Occasionally there are those who consider submitting articles for the newsletter. Something I highly encourage as articles are needed and welcomed. I reserve the right to edit articles, focusing on spelling, clarity or length, but, usually I publish the articles verbatim.

All newsletters have or should have rules and guidelines as to structure and content. Though the ALERT Newsletter has never had “formal written rules”, and is not mentioned in the bylaws, as it was my hare brained idea, I thought it might be appropriate, if not interesting to share the unwritten guidelines I originally envisioned, and for the most part I have followed for the these ten years.

The first guidelines concern what NOT to include and are based on what I call the “Big Three No No Topics Of Ham Radio”. These three topics are subjects ham operators have traditionally been encouraged NOT to discuss on the air for reasons which will become clear.

1. Sex. We want this to be “family friendly newsletter”, and not leave people with the impression that the NWS office in Birmingham is bawdy house. Those red lights you see near the office signify aircraft runway obstruction lights, and nothing more.

2. Religion. For we have readers of different faiths and non-religious readers. Also, even if our readership were all of the same faith, there are numerous denominations all of whom are convinced that the other denominations are either ignorant, deceived or quasi-heathens, and are prone to want to beat each other over the head with Bibles – in love, of course. We want to avoid that unpleasantry.

3. Politics. Though we hate to admit it, we do seem to get a perverse pleasure out of seeing people argue endlessly over politics. How else can we explain the phenomena? But, the newsletter is not the place for that. That’s what Facebook is for, or so it seems, as my newsfeed is constantly bombarded by left and right wing propaganda, which gets irksome and tiresome as it distracts me as I am trying to concentrate on more worthwhile ventures, such as enjoying endless cat pictures.

Once there was a discussion on a local repeater about the “Big Three” topics hams are supposed to, and I did say supposed to avoid, and one old guy remarked “well that don’t leave too much to talk about, do it?”

Fortunately that’s not the case.

So what is the focus of our newsletter?

We focus mainly on six items:

1. ALERT topics – including news, concerns, events & training.
2. NWS topics – including news and the concerns of our Served Agency.
3. Emergency Preparedness – including both ALERT operational preparedness and
personal and family disaster preparedness.
4. Emergency Response – focusing on ALERT, but, can and does include our “sister”
organizations including ARES, HARC and others.
5. Emergency Communications – focusing on, but, not limited to amateur radio. Ways to use
social media and ways to use other, non-amateur radio resources.
6. Meteorology – which I stretch to include astronomy, as to me “it’s all sky related”.

These six categories provide plenty of opportunities for anyone wanting to contribute an article for the newsletter.

As I stated at the outset I reserve the right to edit articles, and in fact the final version of the newsletter you receive is sometimes a heavily edited final version.

I spell check the piece first and then look for nonsensical statements, as Microsoft Word often does strange things to a document, and if not that, a cat running across the keyboard while my head is turned will end up scrambling and deleting entire paragraphs. Plus sometimes I write some things and reading them back have to say “do what, huh?”

I will add the original font and paragraph format does not always survive its being posted on forums and websites. So if everything looks totally compressed and jumbled together, it didn’t originate that way.

As I’ve mentioned to friends, my best writing seems to occur when I have a fever, and I do realize that my grammar is terrible even at its best. But, that is how I normally talk. Sometimes when the grammar is corrected into “proper English” I feel it loses some of the heart and spirit of the meaning or emotion that I am trying to express. In fact, it seems dry as dead leaves. Plus I feel perhaps keeping it “Mark’s way” or “folksy” makes it easier to remember. I will use a quote from survival expert Mykel Hawke as an example. “Just carry a doggone stinkin’ lighter”. I will remember that quote, but, if it we’re corrected to the “proper Queen’s English”, I probably would not.

Another example would be a book I read “Living Off The Land” by the Australian Army Educational Service. This book was written in 1943 and is composed by articles written by the soldiers themselves. Some sections, especially those dealing with diseases are written by Army doctors and are written with precise sterile English, and are as dull as concrete as they drone on and on about malaria and other diseases. But, then you get to the next chapter written in the language of your everyday bloke from Brisbane and its like camping with Crocodile Dundee. You can easily see yourself with your swag rolled out by a billabong, watching your billy boil as you feast on yabbies’ and other delectable bush tucker. A good feed, I might add. Listening as your mate spin yarns you both know are him taking the Mickey, but, is still fair dinkum just the same, that.

I can remember that. I may not understand a word of it, but, I can remember it nonetheless, where the only thing I remember about malaria is how it got its name. They once thought it was caused by “bad air” from swamps. So bad or mal plus air equals “malaria”.

I reread the newsletter a dozen times keeping in mind my wife Teresa – KQ4JC’s advice: 1. Be careful what you say online, because it can come back to bite you years later” 2. Remember this is going to a wide audience, so be careful what you say. And my sister saying “not everyone gets your sense of humor.” Plus keeping in mind it is for promotion of ALERT, not, Mark’s pet peeves and preferences.

I have never attempted to keep the newsletter “politically correct”, as “political correctness” has an inherently left lean, rather I have aimed at keeping the newsletter “politically neutral”, leaning neither to the right or to the left, which either offends no one or offends everyone equally.

Plus I am keenly aware that the written word and the spoken word can convey very dissimilar messages, meanings and motives, though quoted with absolute accuracy, for the written word doesn’t always carry the emotional or relational context of a statement or exchange.

For instance, recently I heard two guys arguing and calling each other every name in the book. But, they didn’t mean a word of it. They have been insulting each other that way, or “talking trash” to each other every day for 45 years. “Oh they’re just clowning around” as someone said. But, put what they said in written form and you have the basis of a lawsuit or them being tarred and feathered, but, unjustly, for though it would be verbally in context, it would be totally out of context emotionally and relationally also, since they are brothers who just like arguing.

As it is said:

“Guy’s insult each other, but, they don’t mean it.
Ladies complement each other, but, they don’t mean it.”

I also look hoping to spot and omit anything unintentionally “offensive”, as offending people is the last thing in my heart or on my mind.

The problem is that “what is offensive” is constantly changing. What was offensive ten years ago may not be considered particular offensive today, but on the other hand what was totally non-offensive ten years ago is now offensive today. Likewise what is socially acceptable today probably won’t be acceptable five years from now and yet it may be perfectly acceptable again ten years further down the road. I can’t keep track of it, it’s like herding kittens, and I would go even further insane if I tried.

So I just do my best, and then follow the advice given in an old song – “don’t worry, be happy.”

The only other major newsletter consideration would be length, as there are bandwidth issues we sometimes deal with.

Two to three pages are about all we can handle with a single newsletter. Larger articles can be divided and published in two or more newsletters.

So within the framework just given, please don’t be hesitant to consider sending articles to the newsletter.

Your efforts will be greatly appreciated.


Mark’s Almanac

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 – 20 being the coldest part of the year.

Typically in January there is a 53% chance of up to one inch of snow and a 25% chance of over one inch of snow.

With the exception of the southern tip of Nova Scotia, all of Canada and roughly one half of the Continental US, or “CONUS”, are now covered with snow. Canada’s Hudson’s Bay is frozen, as is the ocean water between Baffin Island and Greenland.
Barometric pressure is highest in January.

Though the Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ended November 30, every now and then Mother Nature will give us a surprise as there have been 3 tropical storms and 2 Category 1 hurricanes from 1851 to 2016. The two hurricanes were an unnamed hurricane in 1938 in the Eastern Atlantic & Hurricane Alex which in 2016 effected Bermuda and the Azores.

Looking towards the sky, Mercury, magnitude 0, is low in the southeast in early dawn just before sunrise, very far lower left of bright Jupiter. On New Year’s Day he will reach his highest point in the morning sky, or Greatest Western Elongation of 22.7 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky.

Venus is hidden by the glare of the Sun.

Earth will reach her closest distance to the Sun on Jan 3, when the planet will be Earth at Perihelion, 0.98329 Astronomical Units or 91,403,000 miles from the Sun.

Mars, magnitude +1.7, rises in the east-southeast around 3 to 4 AM.

Jupiter, magnitude – 1.8, rises in the east-southeast around 3 to 4 AM.

The gap between Mars, which rises first, and much brighter Jupiter is closing from 6½° on the morning of December 23rd to 3½° on the 30th. They will have a close conjunction, 0.3° apart, on the mornings of January 6th and 7th.

Saturn is hidden behind the glare of the Sun.

Uranus, magnitude 5.7 in Pisces is high in the south-southeast at sunset.

Neptune, magnitude 7.9 in Aquarius is in the south-southwest at sunset.

3572 planets beyond our solar system have now been confirmed as of December 21, per NASA’s Exoplanet Archive

Full Moon will occur Monday January 1, at 8:24 PM CST or 2:24 AM UTC on January 2.

January’s Full Moon is “Wolf Moon” in Native American folklore. This was also called “Wulf-Monath” or “Wolf Month” by the Saxons, because at this full Moon packs of wolves howled in hunger outside of the villages.

It has also been called “Old Moon” and “Moon After Yule”.

This Full Moon will be the first of two Supermoons for 2018. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth, 221,560 miles, and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

“Supermoon” is not an official astronomical term. It was first coined by an astrologer, Richard Nolle, in 1979. He defined it as “a New or a Full Moon that occurs when the Moon is at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in its orbit”. Why he chose the 90% cut off in his definition no one knows.

The actual technical term for a Supermoon is “perigee-syzygy” of the Earth-Moon-Sun system. In astronomy, the term syzygy refers to the straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies. Another name is perigee Full Moon. They can cause a tide 2 inches higher than normal.

The Quadrantids Meteor Shower will occur Wednesday & Thursday, January 3 & 4. This is an above average shower producing between 40 to 100 meteors per hour radiating from the constellation Bootes, in the area near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper and the head of Draco the Dragon.

This shower is a quirky shower in that it has a very narrow particle stream. Therefore, the peak time is only six hours long, and that peak varies each year. The 2017 peak will on the evening of January 3, and is six hours long.

Unfortunately the nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. If you are patient, you should still be able to catch some of the brightest ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

This shower favors the Northern Hemisphere because its radiant point, or the point where the meteors appear to originated in the sky, is so far north on the sky’s dome.

This shower is believed to be produced by dust grains from burnt out comet 2003 EH1, which may also be the remainder of comet c/1490 Y1, which was lost to history after a prominent meteor shower was observed in 1490, possibly due to the breakup of the comet.

New Moon will occur Tuesday, January 16 at 8:17 PM CST or 2:17 AM UTC on January 17, as the Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky.

This will also be the first of two Micromoons of 2018. A Micromoon, the opposite of a Supermoon, occurs when a Full Moon or a New Moon coincides with apogee; the point in the Moon’s orbit farthest away from Earth, near 252,563 miles distant.

A Micromoon is 14% smaller than a Supermoon, which in turn is 7% larger than an average Full Moon. The illuminated area appears 30% smaller, so it might look a little less bright. In fact it will look a much less bright since this Mircomoon occurs at New Moon meaning you won’t be able to see it anyway.

This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

The next Micromoon will occur during the July’s Full Moon.

That one you will be able to see.

Wednesday January 31 will be unusual as we will have a Full Moon, Blue Moon, Supermoon and for Birmingham, a near maximum partial lunar eclipse in one day.

Full Moon will occur at 7:27 AM CST or 13:27 UTC. Some refer to it as a Blue Moon because it is the second Full Moon in the month, and it will be a Supermoon as it will be at its closest approach to the Earth at miles, 223,080 miles. and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

A partial lunar eclipse will begin at 5:48 AM CST and the moon will begin to turn red. Though western North America, eastern Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Ocean will see a total lunar eclipse, Birmingham will not see the maximum eclipse, which occurs at 7:29 AM, due to the moon setting at 6:43 AM. It will still be a worthwhile effort to look towards the western sky to see an eclipsed moon slip below the Earth’s horizon, as this doesn’t happen every day.

Though I am tempted to say “only once in a Blue Moon”, I won’t.


This month’s meeting will be on January 9 at 7PM at the National Weather Service Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.

If for some reason you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can still participate via telephone. The teleconference number is 1-877-951-0997 & and the participant code is 741083.

Hope to see you there!

Mark / WD4NYL
ALERT Newsletter

Mark’s Weatherlynx
Weather Resource Database

ALERT / National Weather Service Birmingham Coverage Area
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