Coping/Prepping: A Look At Direct NOAA SatWx

“Devil makes work for idle hands,” it is said. So I dutifully started to clean out the UrbanSurvival/Peoplenomics office Saturday. And by the time last night rolled around, little looked any different, but at least there was a Big Plan that was coming into view.

You see, a lot of preppers have very little to add (other than the overhead of another mouth to feed) should the crap really hit the fan in ‘Merica. While I don’t expect that to happen in the next five minutes, when you plot the likely trajectory of a $19.5 billion (and climbing) accumulated federal debt, there will have to be some kind of massive reset.

It is also true that prepping will get you a long way down the road toward tomorrow. Must be present to win, as another old saying holds.

We’re lucky since we have enough land, seeds, tools, and junk around here (*like the tiller and such) that we actually could scratch out a horrible make-shift, get-by, if things turn sour. But that is the value-add that we can provide that few others will be able to?

About here I got to thinking about a new kind of information industry. The kind that doesn’t require the internet to operate, it will survive EMP and it will give enough value to the local community that people might be willing to support it.

I’ve decided to focus a bit on this – with maybe more as part of an upcoming Peoplenomics report, but this morning I will share one aspect of it:

Set up and operate a NOAA Weather Satellite receiving center.

You know, as long as the power is on, it doesn’t make a damn bite of different this weather forecasting stuff. But flash a few EMP devices over America and take down both the backbone of the web along with the systems that move diesel and gasoline around. Now? We have a problem.

In such a world, there will be many keys to the recovery but I’m pretty sure that ground-up communications recovery will be one of the important ones.

If EMP happens, what else occurs?

I mean besides the lack of food, inability to get medicines refilled, no more gasoline than what’s in your tank this morning…and so on.

There is also no more weather forecasting.

At least in the normal sense of things.

Who would weather have value to? Farmers and ranchers – and the people who have to be out in it, for sure. But it also is important for just regular people because they will suddenly be back in a world where people actually did have to dress for the weather.

What is NOAA Satellite Weather?

What seems to be available right now are directly received images from three NOAA Environmental Services satellites.

  • NOAA 15 is on 137.620 MHz
  • NOAA 18 is on 137.9125 MHz
  • NOAA 19 is on 137.100 MHz

Nothing is particularly simple, but at least for now it is pretty simple to acquire the basic building blocks to put up a good satellite receiving system at reasonable cost.

The first thing you will need is a wide bandwidth FM receiver which can tune in to these frequencies. There are a number of them out there. (We tend to be hardware agnostic around here.)

The receiver is only one part of the problem, however, because as mentioned recently, there is this quadrafilar antenna problem. Satellite radio signals are circularly polarized and compared with a vertical or horizontal antenna, you’re looking at a 3 dB (or greater) loss of signal if you don’t have the right polarization. You want the right antenna, but these can be built.

Now the next thing you will need is software.

The freeware at is grand.

Third thing you need is a cheap computer.

I did some serious online shopping this weekend for a low power consumption small form factor PC (SFF is the abbreviation) and I can up with (shockingly) Wal-Mart had some incredible deals.

The trick is to go to the Wal-Mart website and put in the search words “refurb” and “8gb”.

I did precisely this and came up with a refurbed dual core Celeron at 3.0 Ghz with Windows 10 included. Since Wal-Mart is trying to nibble into some of Amazon’s electronics business, they offer free shipping. Not two-day stuff, but if you can wait a week, an 8GB, 2TB HD, with DVRW and lots of USB ports for $162 including tax and shipping is almost ludicrously cheap.

The greatly simplified recipe to get the home and hopefully bullet proof ground satellite receiver is:

Quadrafilar (circularly polarized [left-handed]) antenna.

VHF FM receiver for the 137.00 to 138.00 range with a broad IF section.

Some kind of lower power computer.

And software.

A print would be nice, but that’s power, paper, toner or ink…maybe, but that’s up to you.

Care and feeding of this rig will take a little doing. The good news is that Wal-Mart also has some screaming deals of tiny (11”) refurb laptops on the cheap. Set the display to shut down quickly and now you’ve got an economical power situation.

I would plan on half a dozen solar panels of the 100 Watt size to run this. You will need a couple of deep cycle batteries, a multiple stage charge controller (MPPT may be overkill, so an old Trace/Xantrex C-40 PWM type would likely work).

Not that you will need any of the gobs of power unless the weather is bad – and that is what winter is all about.

Then there’s the matter of atmospheric absorption. When the weather is bad, satellites tend to lose signal strength. Depending on downlink frequency this can be a PITA to a signal killer. If your receiver isn’t getting full quieting when the satellite is “in view” you might consider something like the Hamtronics LNP-137 which is a preamplifier/preselector.

Hamtronics, by the way, also makes a dedicated weather receiver that is crystal controlled. See their R303-137 receiver here which is the board only. That will set you back $259 and then a tuning tool and power supply and shipping. Check with them on whether there is a good enclosure available…but my sense would be to put the whole thing in an aluminum project box and ground the living snot out of it and leave it disconnected/grounded when not in use.

Now the detailed education.

NOAA has done a great job of documenting “User’s Guide for Building and Operating Environmental Satellite Receiving Station.”

Do I really think you will take the time to read all 107 pages in the PDF? Uh…your call, not mine.


There is always something to learn, eh?

On this project I’m reminded of something I ran into the first time back in my sailing days: Our approximate location here at the ranch is near 31°55?11?N 95°37?52?W.

The problem (not a big one) is that the WXtoIMG program wants a decimal for the LAT.LON. For this, we flip over here and plug ‘em in.

With results, we round to 31.92N by 95.63W and when entered, remember that is West of London/Greenwich so it goes into the program as -95.63.

This all matter because the program will give you predicted pass times BUT you have to put in a reasonably accurate position AND you have to update the Keplers (orbital data which is a click-button).

Once you have the Keplers updated, all you need to do is look for Satellite Pass information on the file menu…record or auto record, decode and you’re there.

Now all you need is a clever bit of banter and your own weather channel, but an insane ability to come up with marketing names for natural weather phenomena.

I want to trademark “Lake Effect Drought”…

Point is there is a recipe to everything – and once you have the tools for any job and the “secret decoder ring” (process) you can do just about anything. (Don’t start on neurosurgery…work up to things like that!)

Do those simple items and you’re ready to record a pass or two.

What the program will do once set up is record the satellite audio data from the radio, using your sound card and then you will make a one-time adjustment (to make sure your sound card and the program are synched – the process is similar to slant-correction in WeatherFax) and then you should be good to go.

There…how’s that for a longish – but sure as hell interesting discussion and skill-builder, huh?

Well, day after a holiday, I figure you need something you can really sink your teeth into…We have another skill building discussion on tap for tomorrow, so be sure to come by.

Write when you get rich,


Coping/Prepping: A Look At Direct NOAA SatWx — 22 Comments

  1. After evaluating my health and situation, I decided years ago to prep for surviving a financial collapse. Anything more serious I have little chance and no desire of surviving. It is a miracle that I have made it to 70 and am still functioning. I also know that life doesn’t end, only the physical body stops and is recycled into the Earth from which it came. After some time for R&R at home, I come back to Earth school for more lessons. The circle of life continues.

  2. The REBOOT…. think about it for a few moments… I have four thousand books on my ebook reader.. pretty nice as long as there is power.. there is a library locally a couple thousand books.. the Congressional library is located deep underground.. with only the cards on top.. what if.. what if happened.. How many times has the earth undergone rapid changes..
    the estimate to rebuild our industrial complex if we started right now is what five or ten years down the road.. if there was a massive EMP my a report nasa has out on it.. would take many decades simply because non of the equipment is made here.. it is all made in another country and even without an emp is ten years behind on replacing components.. many of our old industrialists that build our industry from the ground up are dying off.
    How many of us here can make a pencil.. much less a sewing machine.. how many have a sewing machine that they work with daily.. most of us wouldn’t have a clue how to do any of this.. how do you make a needle a string make paper..
    So again my question.. since we cannot even in our industrialized world do what they did five thousand years ago yet.. and most of our books and media is digitalized.. would be be able to.. my thought is it would put us back to the age of the dinosaurs..
    Of course we have enough stuff already available that it wouldn’t be felt as drastically it would take a few years.. then as resources dwindles it would be like a tree falling.. wobble at first then start the decent down.. depending on the seriousness of why.. would be a good indicator as to how long before we hit bottom.. of course that is just my opinion..

    • and all so that a very few can gather up a few digitalized numbers.. a few pieces of paper.. I think that is what is funny.. history tells us that paper money in a real catastrophy isn’t worth anything.. a digital number without power is gone instantly.. coin gold silver.. well those if your hungry would be and has been traded for vegitables.. during the drought and depression of the early 1800’s a cup of water was three hundred in gold..
      Just saying..

      • Which drought and depression? Now if you had said the FUBAR that was Jamestown regarding food I would believe you. Those people (who were mostly young male elites out to ‘make money’) came to this continent with the idea of grabbing land and gold, and had hardly any practical skills. Almost starved until the people who know how to ‘do work’ arrived . . .

  3. Dear George, my antenna is peripheral so I can only ever be on the outer edge of what you’re writing about… But, anyway, I just watched the episode of The Walking Dead where they are first grateful for the cloudburst, then fearful of the gathering storm, then holed up in a barn during a microburst, all without benefit of warning, and I think your idea is brilliant and definitely worth grub, gold or bullets. Old timers here like to talk about “hurricane weather”, and would be your strongest competition. Also ties in with my curiosity regarding your daughter’s zombie walk; there are 3 levels of walking dead, W,IK (wikipedia, I know) -hero zombies have full makeup and are featured walkers; midground zombies have highlights and shadows but no full makeup; and deep background zombies are only wearing masks and are used as backdrop. Wondered what your girl was going for and how it worked out!

  4. I addition to food supplies, tools, seeds, etc., we decided to join our local Grange and organize local artisans and collectors. The Grange is an old-timey organization that encourages the rural quality of life. It has buildings all over the Country that could be used after a collapse. We hold monthly Saturday Market sales where people can sell their wares. Guns, ammmo, household items, jewelry, eggs from backyard chickens, home-made jams and jellies, bread, hand-sewn and crafted items of all sorts. The Grange building is with-in walking distance of most of the residents of our small town.
    The Granges could provide the spaces necessary for trading needed items and organize neighbors for special projects.
    I believe that prepping must include getting to know and rely on your neighbors. I sure don’t want to shoot somebody over a can of beans.

  5. The first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 was launched in 1957.

    “The first recording of Sputnik 1’s signal was made by RCA engineers near Riverhead, Long Island. They then drove the tape recording into Manhattan for broadcast to the public over NBC radio. However, as Sputnik rose higher over the East Coast, its signal was picked up by ham station W2AEE, the ham radio station of Columbia University. Students working in the university’s FM station, WKCR, made a tape of this, and were the first to rebroadcast the Sputnik 1 signal to the American public (or as much of it as could be received by the FM station).” per wikipedia

    This scenario is too contrived for it to be real.

    Did you know the original Bohemian Grove was started in Europe for a bunch of actors and artists? Hmmmm… and so our bunch of Bohemian Grove attendees/Government officials are also just actors. The US of A is just a petri dish experiment ripe with propaganda (lies) that enticed our ancestors to make the long journey here away from their family and friends for a better life for us.

      • there’s a LOT of open source stuff for weather kits too… just created a docker repo on my RasPi-3 last weekend. Now its time to see if I can do the same on the Zero… the RasPi-Zero is about $10, btw…

  6. If EMP takes out the electrical grid, what happens to the satellites in orbit. Is a geosynchronous weather satellite far enough away to survive? Certainly, the GPS satellites in lower orbit that are near the EMP will be taken out as well as others and the ISS if it is near the EMP

    • It’s probably too late for you to read this, but nuclear EMP is mostly terrestrial and satellites are designed to be hardened to solar EMP. Now, the orbital elements (Keplerian elements) tend to drift over time, so they may get a bit stale without updates over the non-existent Internet… That may be the worst of the SHTF effects.

  7. George:

    In a wide-spread EMP event what in the world makes you think NOAA signals will still be viable? Especially since there are technologies about which the public is unaware that will also thwart your celebrated Ham radio systems. Trust me on this: TPTB were using Ham long before you and have most certainly figured out how to shut those systems down as well to keep users from communicating. Your logic is convoluted and stubbornly focusing upon things over which you will have no control -or ability to accurately predict. And, as far as weather is concerned farmers have relied upon their intuition -and more importantly those of animals- for centuries without needing technology. It’s simply not rocket science to stick your head out and board up the windows when it looks/feels foul outside.

    Your opening comments that preppers have very little to offer society is also pretty empty. The single greatest thing they offer is a forward-thinking attitude shared by people who are smart enough to mitigate personal circumstances. It’s these people who will be tasked with rebuilding a shattered community – not those who never plan for tomorrow.

    Finally: your pessimistic thoughts of only being able to maintain a ‘horrible, make-shift get-by’ is chronically self-defeating. Instead of spending money on more eventually-useless hardware you would be better far off paring down your essentials and necessities to a bare-bones status so your overall lifestyle WON’T alter when the time comes… because the time will come soon enough that -in spite of all your toys- you to will be reduced to having little more than your five senses, a strong back and pair of calloused hands. The very best-equipped groups for absolute survival? The AMISH!

    • So true George but remember, one man with a gun can take all that away from you in the flash of a milli second.

    • ” Trust me on this: TPTB were using Ham long before you and have most certainly figured out how to shut those systems down as well to keep users from communicating.”

      As a ham, ‘Trust me on this’: You know nothing about how ham radio works! WE have the transmitters. (And we know how to build our own.) They cannot shut down the whole ionosphere (without killing themselves and all life on the planet). We SHALL communicate!

      • UMMM, how do you intend to power up those transmitters? George’s scenario involved a large-scale EMP… and, that disruption doesn’t necessarily have to come from a foreign power or solar source. Stop fooling yourself.

      • Trust me – guys like Hank and I have the power angle covered. Remember, UrbanSurvival and Peoplenomics has 3.5 kW of panels and EMP protected inverters and charge controllers. We’re the guys that built the systems that keep radio and tv on the air during storms, don’t forget

    • Ham radio is not dependent on ‘systems’ that TPTB can ‘shut down’. The power is all in the hands of the ham radio operators. We are intelligent tool users who can build our own tools… radio transmitters. After a hurricane, flood, or other disaster that locally takes out power, telephone, and government radio ‘systems’, why is it that the Red Cross and local Civil Defense organizations use ham radio operators for communications? Because “When all else fails, Ham radio works!” (It’s not just a slogan.) Hams have demonstrated this time and again, and practice off-grid emergency communications annually with Field Day operations.

  8. Off comment. My apologies but the comments on the motoped were out. You can still buy trail 70, 90 and 125’s. Here’s several links. The first is supposedly high quality. These come from China and some of them are quality and some are junk. The first is pricey but supposedly better quality.


    All kinds of crazy stuff here. They have Rokons too.


    That’s enough. Searching for Trail 70 copies is helpful.