Tag Archives: NOAA

Radio Waves: US Emergency Alert System Vulnerabilities, Tape Measure Antennas, Eight Year Old Chats with ISS, and Power of Prison Radio

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


“Huge flaw” threatens US emergency alert system, DHS researcher warns (ARS Technica)

Hackers can disrupt legit warnings or issue fake ones of their own.

The US Department of Homeland Security is warning of vulnerabilities in the nation’s emergency broadcast network that makes it possible for hackers to issue bogus warnings over radio and TV stations.

“We recently became aware of certain vulnerabilities in EAS encoder/decoder devices that, if not updated to the most recent software versions, could allow an actor to issue EAS alerts over the host infrastructure (TV, radio, cable network),” the DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned. “This exploit was successfully demonstrated by Ken Pyle, a security researcher at CYBIR.com, and may be presented as a proof of concept at the upcoming DEFCON 2022 conference in Las Vegas, August 11-14.”

Pyle told reporters at CNN and Bleeping Computer that the vulnerabilities reside in the Monroe Electronics R189 One-Net DASDEC EAS, an emergency alert system encoder and decoder. TV and radio stations use the equipment to transmit emergency alerts. The researcher told Bleeping Computer that “multiple vulnerabilities and issues (confirmed by other researchers) haven’t been patched for several years and snowballed into a huge flaw.”

“When asked what can be done after successful exploitation, Pyle said: ‘I can easily obtain access to the credentials, certs, devices, exploit the web server, send fake alerts via crafts message, have them valid / pre-empting signals at will. I can also lock legitimate users out when I do, neutralizing or disabling a response,’” Bleeping Computer added. [Continue reading…]

Just how good is a tape measure antenna anyway? (Hackaday)

Amateur radio operators have played a longstanding game of “Will It Antenna?” If there’s something even marginally conductive and remotely resonant, a ham has probably tried to make an antenna out of it. Some of these expedient antennas actually turn out to be surprisingly effective, but as we can see from this in-depth analysis of the characteristics of tape measure antennas, a lot of that is probably down to luck.

At first glance, tape measure antennas seem to have a lot going for them (just for clarification, most tape measure antennas use only the spring steel blade of a tape measure, not the case or retraction mechanism — although we have seen that done.) Tape measures can be rolled up or folded down for storage, and they’ll spring back out when released to form a stiff, mostly self-supporting structure.

But [fvfilippetti] suspected that tape measures might have some electrical drawbacks, thanks to the skin effect. That’s the tendency for current to flow on the outside of a conductor, which at lower frequencies on conductors with a round cross-section turns out to be not a huge problem. [Continue reading on Hackaday…]

Broadstairs eight-year-old to feature on NASA website after radio chat with ISS astronaut (The Isle of Thanet News)

A Broadstairs eight-year-old has chatted with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station and a recording of the conversation will feature on the NASA website.

Isabella Payne spoke to Astronaut Kjell Lindgren as the ISS flew overhead last week.

The youngster was with dad Matthew who is a license holding amateur radio enthusiast and tutor. He and Isabella are both members of Hilderstone Radio Society.

Matthew said: “Isabella has been a member of the radio club ever since she was born and has been playing with the radio since she was six. Because I have the full licence she can sit on my knee and use the radio to speak to people as long as I am controlling it. Everyone at the club can do that. She has been involved in a few radio events, Children On The Air events, and will hopefully go for her own licence soon. [Click here to read the full article and view the photos.]

The power of prison radio in giving voice to the voiceless around the world (ABC)

“I plan my life by the radio these days, my contact with the outside world in a sense…”

The first ever international prison radio conference has just been held in Norway, bringing together representatives of prison radio shows from 19 countries, including Australia, where Indigenous people continue to be grossly over-represented in prison populations.

Prison radio shows, wherever they are in the world, all work to give voice to the voiceless and empower people by enabling them to tell their own stories.

Click here to listen to the podcast episode.


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NOAA weather radio “needs some serious upgrades”

The Midland WR120 weather radio.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Dura, who shares the following article from Slate:

The Radio System That Keeps Us Safe From Extreme Weather Is Under Threat

NOAA Weather Radio needs some serious upgrades.

In March, a group of massive tornadoes struck communities around Des Moines, Iowa. Seven people were killed, including two children under 5. The crisis received attention not only due to its human cost, but also because of delays in emergency wireless communications: Thanks to a broken fiber optic cable at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Weather Service offices, wireless emergency transmissions were switched to an auxiliary satellite system, which all NWS offices use. Overloaded with extreme weather messages from elsewhere in the Midwest, the satellite messaging system found itself backed up just as the Iowa tornadoes reached their peak. This caused anywhere from a two- to nine-minute delay in tornado warning messages—and may have significantly reduced warning time at a moment when seconds count. The issue lasted for several hours as the deadly tornadoes ripped through the state.

NOAA Weather Radio, on the other hand, continued broadcasting effectively during the crisis. According to Bruce Jones, a weather radio expert and meteorologist with Midland Radio Corporation, “because the NWR broadcast comes direct from the National Weather Service local forecast office, those NOAA Weather Radio alerts and warnings were unimpeded and reached folks immediately.”

Often referred to as the “voice” of the National Weather Service, NOAA Weather Radio is a 24/7 public service that broadcasts weather information from more than 1,000 stations across the United States and many of its territories. And while Des Moines was a great success story for NOAA Weather Radio, the service faces mounting issues with aging technology and infrastructure, raising concerns over whether it will be able to continue protecting communities facing extreme weather.

[…]While NOAA Weather Radio has historically been an important, consistent, and life-saving means of emergency communication, it may not be for long. Outdated technology and failed attempts at modernization are threatening the NOAA Weather Radio system and resulting in extended outages for locations at risk. And as the climate crisis intensifies, this important technology is often vulnerable to the weather about which it’s meant to inform.

Interviews with NWS employees about outages reveal many local technical problems that take out communications, sometimes for weeks or months.

[…]Recent congressional action, however, has given new life to the possibility of systemic weather radio modernization. Rep. Stephanie Bice, a Republican from Oklahoma, has proposed the NOAA Weather Radio Modernization Act of 2021, which passed in the House of Representatives in May but has yet to pass in the Senate. From Oklahoma, Bice was well aware of the need for consistent weather communications during natural disasters like tornadoes, which affect her constituents.

The bill would authorize $20 million to expand coverage to the remaining 5 percent of the country without access to NOAA Weather Radio communications, as well as $40 million to modernize its hardware and software, including upgrading communication from copper wires to Internet services. According to Wesley Harkins, a representative from Bice’s office, “this paves the way for future development and provides failsafe options, so NWR is never down for an extended period of time.”

[…]The NWS itself acknowledges the benefits of this legislation. Maureen O’Leary, deputy director of public affairs at the NOAA, told me via email that improvements would include “expanding NWR coverage to rural and underserved communities, national parks, and recreation areas.”[…]

Click here to read the full article at Slate.com.

Click here to read articles relating to weather radio in the SWLing Post archives.

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Guest Post: Everyone should have a “Crisis Radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


The Crisis Radio

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Sooner or later, it will happen to you. What’s ‘it’? Short answer: a crisis.

It could be as simple as you wake in the morning to find the power is out; you don’t know how long it has been out, and you don’t know when it is coming back. It might be a weather event: a blizzard, a sandstorm, a tornado, a derecho, a hurricane. It might be a geologic event like a tsunami, earthquake, or even volcanic activity. As recent events have shown, it could even be a war or a revolution.

When normal life is disrupted, and uncertainty is perched on your shoulder like a vulture, you will want to know what’s going on, and your usual means of getting information – telephone, smart phone, internet device – may also be disrupted.

When that happens, radio can come to your rescue. Your local FM or AM (medium wave) station may be on the air, providing vital information to your community, or NOAA Weather Radio may be providing hazard information. In extreme cases, shortwave radio may be beaming information to your area when all else fails.

One of the points that was made when our own Thomas Witherspoon was interviewed recently was that people tend to regard shortwave radio as “crisis” radio.

So I have a couple of very specific recommendations.

First, make sure that your household has a “crisis radio.” By that I mean one that will receive your local AM and FM broadcasters as well as shortwave radio, and, if you live in the US or Canada, NOAA Weather Radio. If you can afford it, I recommend getting a crisis radio that has single sideband capability (SSB) so that you have the ability to intercept ham radio communications, which might be another source of information.

Toward that end, I can heartily recommend the CCrane Skywave SSB radio. (Let’s be clear: I have no commercial connection with CCrane; I get nothing from them for making this recommendation, I purchased my Skywave SSB with my own money.) It has AM, FM, Shortwave, Weather, VHF, Aviation and SSB Bands. It is very small, measuring just 4.8″ W x 3″ H x 1″ D and weighing just 6 ounces without batteries. It will run for over 50 hours on a couple of AA batteries and comes with CC Earbuds, SkyWave SSB Carry Case, and CC SW Reel Antenna which boost sensitivity for shortwave and ham radio listening.

It is a crisis radio that you can stick in your pocket, backpack, purse or briefcase for deployment when the need arises or you simply want to listen to some radio programming. Further, you don’t have to be an expert to operate the CCrane Skywave SSB. Thanks to the Automatic Tuning System, just select the band you want to listen to, press and hold the ATS button for two seconds, and the Skywave SSB will automatically search for stations in that band (AM, FM, Shortwave, etc.) and store those stations in the memory banks for that band. You can later check those memories to hear what programming those stations are broadcasting.

Second, and this is important, if you listen to shortwave radio at all, take the time to let the stations know. Drop them a postcard; shoot them an email, do whatever you can to inform them you are listening, and you value their transmissions.

Why? Because we all want those stations to be there if and when the next crisis happens. And if your local AM or FM station provides special programming to the community a weather event or geologic emergency, for the same reason, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.

As a fire captain observed a couple of years after the North Ridge earthquake in California: “You cannot be over-prepared for communications in an emergency.”

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Guest Post: Keeping an ear on the US Coast Guard

Photo: US Coast Guard

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


Keeping an ear on the US Coast Guard

By Jock Elliott KB2GOM

Wandering the vast expanses of YouTube, I encountered an episode of “Coast Guard Alaska” on DangerTV’s Protecting Our Waters/Coast Guard Rescue Series playlist. One episode led to another, and before long, I was binge-watching the series.

Why? Because the courage, dedication and performance of the “Coasties” is just extraordinary. They dangle from hoist cables to pluck survivors from the water, injured sailors from the decks of ships, mariners from sinking vessels, and even incapacitated hikers from mountains. They medevac sick and injured men, women, and children out of remote Alaskan villages; provide medical support while flying them to higher levels of care, and intercept drug smugglers in southern waters. I stand in awe of these men and women. (And – woe is me – it turns out there are similar series for Coast Guard Pacific Northwest and Coast Guard Florida.)

So, I wondered, could I hear the US Coast Guard on the radio? The answer, it turns out is a mixed bag.

The U.S. Coast Guard ceased monitoring all High Frequency (HF) shortwave voice distress frequencies within the contiguous United States and Hawaii on 7 February 2022.  HF voice distress watchkeeping continues unaffected in Alaska and Guam. See below for the Alaska and Guam USB frequencies.

kHz SHIP STATION kHz COAST STATION Station and Schedule (UTC)
NOJ (Kodiak AK)
4125 4125 24 HRS
6215 6215 24 HRS
8291 8291 24 HRS
12290 12290
kHz SHIP STATION kHz COAST STATION Station and Schedule (UTC)
Guam
6215 6215 0900-2100Z
12290 12290 2100-0900Z

Note: 12290 kHz is available under NOJ upon request
Note: 16420 kHz is available at NOJ and Guam upon request

So, if you have a good radio capable of upper sideband (USB) reception, a decent antenna and your location and/or propagation favors you, you might have a shot at hearing USCG Alaska or Guam HF communications.

National Weather Service Marine Products via U.S. Coast Guard HF Voice

You have a much better chance of hearing the U.S. Coast Guard broadcasting National Weather Service high seas forecasts and storm warnings from six high seas communication stations. See table below for station locations and schedules. Transmission range depends on operating frequency, time of day and atmospheric conditions and can vary from only short distances to several thousand miles.

For example, I have heard a weather forecast from the US Coast Guard Communications Command in Chesapeake, including a forecast of tropical weather from the National Hurricane Center, on 4426 USB at my home in upstate New York.

Here are the schedules:

Chesapeake (NMN)
HF Voice Broadcast Schedule

4426, 6501, 8764 kHz (USB) 0330Z1 0515Z2 0930Z1
6501, 8764, 13089 kHz (USB) 1115Z2 1530Z1 2130Z1 2315Z2
8764, 13089, 17314 kHz (USB) 1715Z2
1 Offshore Forecasts, hurricane information

2 High seas Forecast, hurricane information

Broadcast of hurricane and other weather broadcasts from this station may on occasion be preempted, as the frequencies are shared with other USCG stations.

New Orleans (NMG)
HF Voice Broadcast Schedule

4316, 8502, 12788 kHz (USB) 0330Z1 0515Z2 0930Z1 1115Z2 1530Z1 1715Z2 2130Z1 2315Z2
1 Offshore Forecasts, hurricane information

2 Highseas Forecast, hurricane information

Broadcast of hurricane and other weather broadcasts from this station may on occasion be preempted, as the transmitters are shared with the radiofax broadcast.

Pt. Reyes (NMC)
HF Voice Broadcast Schedule

4426, 8764, 13089 kHz (USB) 0430Z 1030Z
8764, 13089, 17314 kHz (USB) 1630Z 2230Z
Broadcast of hurricane and other weather broadcasts from this station may on occasion be preempted, as the frequencies are shared with other USCG stations, and the transmitters are shared with the radiofax broadcast.

Kodiak (NOJ)
HF Voice Broadcast Schedule

6501 kHz (USB) 0203Z 1645Z

Honolulu (NMO)
HF Voice Broadcast Schedule

6501, 8764 kHz (USB) 0600Z 1200Z
8764, 13089 kHz (USB) 0005Z 1800Z

Guam (NRV)
HF Voice Broadcast Schedule

6501 kHz (USB) 0930Z 1530Z
13089 kHz (USB) 0330Z 2130Z

Coastal Maritime Safety Broadcasts on VHF

The other place in the radio spectrum where you might hear voice transmissions from the Coast Guard would be on the maritime VHF channels. Urgent marine navigational and weather information is broadcast over VHF channel 22A (157.1 MHz) from over 200 sites covering the coastal areas of the U.S., including the Great Lakes, major inland waterways, Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. Broadcasts are first announced over the distress, safety and calling channel 16 (156.8 MHz) before they are made. All ships in U.S. waters over 20m in length are required to monitor VHF channel 16, and must have radios capable of tuning to the VHF simplex channel 22A.

Although VHF signals are generally short range, here at El Rancho Elliott, I can clearly hear the announcement on channel 16 on a scanner and then I can switch to channel 22A to hear the broadcast, even though my location is at least 140 miles from the nearest large body of water.  In addition, propagation sometimes opens up so that VHF signals can be heard at long distances.

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Jock satisfies his inner radio nerd with a deeper dive into NOAA weather radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


Perhaps the ultimate radio nerd story . . .

by Jock Elliott (KB2GOM)

Perhaps I am the only guy on planet earth with a “kinda” interest in DXing NOAA weather radio, but there you have it, and this led me down an interesting rabbit hole in the world of radio.

Earlier this year, I found myself in Sodus, NY, in the western part of the state, near the shores of Lake Ontario. I had with me the following: an Icom V80 2-meter handy-talkie with a sharply tuned commercial antenna that works great on my home repeater (146.94) in Troy, NY; a Uniden BC125AT scanner with a Diamond 77 antenna, and a CCrane Skywave SSB. All receive the NOAA weather channels.

In the early morning, I checked www.wunderground.com for weather in the Sodus area. Snow was expected overnight. So I grab the Uniden 125AT, activate the weather scan function, and found that it received NOAA weather radio channels 1, 2, and 3, and the audio sounded great through my headphones. I tried stepping through the weather radio channels on my Icom V80 and found that it received channels 1, 2, and 3, but with just a wee bit of static in the background. I tried switching the antennas between the 125AT and the V80, and there was no appreciable difference.

Now, here’s the interesting part: I tried the same trick on the CCrane Skywave SSB with its telescoping whip fully extended, and it received weather channel 1 just fine with excellent audio through the headphones. But channel 2 was way down in the soup, a hair above “barely audible.” I tried waving the Skywave around, point the whip antenna in different directions and orientations to see if I could improve the signal. I succeeded only in nulling it out. Weather radio channel 3 was not audible at all, but channel 4 was coming in well, and so was channel 7 . . . and the other two radios were not receiving channels 4 and 7 at all.

Frankly, I didn’t know what to make of this. To be clear, I was able to hear that forecast that I needed to hear — for Wayne County, NY — on all three radios. But why would there be such a stark difference between the CCrane Skywave SSB and the other two radios?

At this point, I was really curious what the answer might be.

The V80 and the 125AT “agreed” with each; both were receiving NOAA weather radio channels 1, 2, 3. The CCrane Skywave SSB appeared to be the anomaly, receiving channels 1, 2 (barely), and 4 and 7, which the V80 and 125AT did not receive.

Continue reading

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NOAA Space Weather Enthusiasts Dashboard gets an upgrade

Sun NOAA GOES SUVI

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jake Brodsky (AB3A), who writes:

I am a regular at
https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/communities/space-weather-enthusiasts

I just noticed today that the formerly crunchy low resolution x-ray view of the sun has been replaced by the GOES-16 SUVI images on a three hour loop. This has a 195 Angstrom view of the sun in great detail, so you can immediately see where the holes are forming in the corona.

Solar weather enthusiasts don’t need to go to the solar dynamics observatory page all the time to see what the last three hours looked like.

Thanks for the tip, Jake!

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NOAA/NASA panel publishes Solar Cycle 25 Preliminary Forecast

(Source: NOAA via Michael Bird)

The NOAA/NASA co-chaired international panel to forecast Solar Cycle 25 released a preliminary forecast for Solar Cycle 25 on April 5, 2019. The consensus: Cycle 25 will be similar in size to cycle 24. It is expected that sunspot maximum will occur no earlier than the year 2023 and no later than 2026 with a minimum peak sunspot number of 95 and a maximum of 130. In addition, the panel expects the end of Cycle 24 and start of Cycle 25 to occur no earlier than July, 2019, and no later than September, 2020. The panel hopes to release a final, detailed forecast for Cycle 25 by the end of 2019. Please read the official NOAA press release describing the international panel’s forecast at https://www.weather.gov/news/190504-sun-activity-in-solar-cycle

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