Tag Archives: NOAA

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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Update: Discontinuation of NWS High Seas and Storm Warnings on WWV and WWVH

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mohamed, who comments with an update about the loss of NWS High Seas and Storm Warnings on WWV and WWVH. Mohamed writes:

The decision to terminate the broadcasts has not been retracted. It has only been delayed to January 31, 2019:

(Source: National Weather Service)

NOUS41 KWBC 151610
PNSWSH

Service Change Notice 18-102
National Weather Service Headquarters Silver Spring MD 1210 PM EST Thu Nov 15 2018

To: Subscribers:
-NOAA Weather Wire Service

-Emergency Managers Weather Information Network -NOAAPORT
Other NWS Partners, Users and Employees

From: Craig Hodan, Chief Dissemination Systems Branch

Subject: Discontinuation of NWS High Seas and Storm Warnings
over NIST Time Frequency Broadcasts Effective January 31, 2019

Effective Thursday, January 31, 2019, at 200 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) or 1800 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the NWS will discontinue dissemination of High Seas and Storm Warnings portion of the National Institutes of Science and Technology (NIST) time frequency broadcasts as issued by WWV and WWVH “shortwave” radio covering the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific.

This service is being terminated because weather information in the current broadcast format does not support frequent enough updates for changes in marine weather and cannot provide enough detail in the allotted window required by mariners to avoid hazardous weather. Additionally, alternative technologies and numerous media outlets that provide weather information in various formats have overtaken the need for providing weather information through the NIST frequency signals.

Other sources of marine weather and high seas alerts and detailed forecasts are available over satellite, telephone, the Internet, Marine Fax, Radio Fax and VHF radio. Currently the NWS, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and the U.S. Navy (USN) provide multiple dissemination methods for storm positioning, high sea areas, observations, forecasts, outlooks and warnings for both coastal and oceanic marine zones near the United States using Navigational Telex (NAVTEX), Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) and High Seas SImplex Teletype Over Radio (HFSITOR) in compliance with World Meteorological Organization (WMO) policies and the International Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention.
Please refer to the following websites for more information on how to use these technologies:

1. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/navtex.htm (NAVTEX)

2. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/gmdss.htm (GMDSS)

3. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfsitor.htm HFSITOR)

4. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/inmarsat.htm (SAFETYNET)

5. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/marine/vhfvoice.htm (USCG VHF)

For additional information, please contact:

Gregory Zwicker
National Weather Service
Dissemination Systems Branch
301-427-9682
gregory.zwicker@noaa.gov

National Service Change Notices are online at:

https://www.weather.gov/notification/

NNNN

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WWV & WWVH marine storm warning announcements continue

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who notes that WWV & WWVH marine storm warning announcements continue despite a recent announcement that they would end.

Richard has been monitoring WWV/WWVH broadcasts and shared the following note earlier this month:

The weather broadcasts (storm information) were still there at 8, 9, and 10 minutes past 0:00 UTC on 1 November on WWV as monitored here in NB. Haven’t had a chance to check them since. Are they actually gone? If so, when were the last ones broadcast. The warning at the 4-minute mark hadn’t been heard for days. I’m wondering if the decision to terminate the broadcasts was reversed.

Yesterday, Richard added the following:

[…]And still there on WWV (and presumably WWVH) on 16 November at 03:08 UTC on 10 MHz. So I guess this conclusively means that the proposal to cancel the broadcasts has been rescinded at least for the time being.

Thanks for sharing this, Richard.

Your observation prompted me to check the NOAA Marine Forecast page. I discovered that it has been updated it since the notice to stop marine forecasts was first announced last month.

Before, it stated that the “end of the high seas warnings [is] scheduled for October 31, 2017.” Either NOAA made the decision to end the the forecasts in 2017 and never followed through, else the individual who posted the announcement mistakenly noted 2017 instead of 2018.

NOAA does not note edit dates on this page, so there’s no way of knowing when the page was updated. Regardless, there is no longer a firm termination date mentioned on the page. Now the National Weather Service simply states:

“the NWS is considering a proposal to discontinue this service.”

So I believe, Richard, you are correct: the NWS has at least temporarily rescinded cancellation of the service.

Thanks for following this development, Richard!

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