Before sunset I didn’t have high hopes for a good night of receiving due to storms that sprung up in Arkansas. It sounded like Summer during the mid-evening. This noise, coupled with the daylight savings time nonsense, yielded a slow start to activity. The band did not disappoint, however. As the evening progressed propagation and receiving improved in the South and in the East and Northeast the band was enhanced, allowing many to have trans-Atlantic reports. Will this activity continue to tease us into April?
The geomagnetic metrics were generally quiet and nominal. Solar wind returned to low levels and the Bz is currently pointing to the North. Solarham is forecasting more geomagnetic storming conditions this week but time will tell what actually materializes.
Mike, WA3TTS, reported G0MRF, who has been operating from a portable commercial antenna site. David was hoping for a trans-Atlantic report during these sessions and now he has two from this session. What’s amazing is that Mike’s antenna was listening to the Northwest. His comments, which were posted on the LOWFER reflector, are appended below:
David, G0MRF, sent a note this morning about his portable operation and the success from this session. He also included a picture of his loading device, in situ, which was not included in previous posts. Congrats David!
John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, had a great session with reports from four stations in Germany as well as stations across the North America.
Doug, K4LY / WH2XZO, received trans-Atlantic reports from a station in Germany and ponders the value of recent antenna work:
I told Doug that the tower might have a slight impact but may not be worth the effort to skirt the tower and formally detune it to make it invisible. The chances of a resonance without any intervention are small. I also put out the idea of skirting the tower and creating a fat vertical with the Rohn 45 in the center. With his arrays on this tower it might create some engineering complications but maybe not as bad as it might seem. As I am “just talking” there may be no benefit to this effort.
Neil, W0YSE/7 / WG2XSV, operated WSQ2 during the evening. This very slow mode is reported to have a detection limit near -25 dB S/N. There is also a version of the program by DL4YHF which appears to have some enhanced functionality. I left the decoder running through the session and while there were a few “phantoms” that might have been Neil’s call sign, I had no definitive reports. Neil indicates that there is no beacon mode for this program so he has to manually start and stop the transmissions which is why he is not running the program overnight. Neil provided additional comments, appended below:
Roelof, PA0RDT, reported that Joe, VO1NA, was heard again at his station:
I did not take census numbers for MF WSPR last night but activity seemed fine for March. Two new or returning stations were observed in the receiving bullpen: K5PAV and AD0TA. Welcome aboard!
Regional and continental WSPR breakdown’s follow:
There were no reports on the trans-African path although ZS1JEN was reported as present during the overnight session.
Stefan, DK7FC was reported by Vasily, UA0SNV, in Asiatic Russia on the very long-haul land path. Vasily appears to have set up a secondary receiver as UA0SNV-2 but the details are unclear at this time.
Trans-Atlantic activity was strongly concentrated in Germany with the additional spots for G0MRF/p by WA3TTS/2 and WG2XPJ.
In the Caribbean, Eden, ZF1EJ, had a very respectable session, reporting stations across North America. With trans-Atlantic conditions expanding southward to WH2XZO, had the noise from Atlantic storms not been present, trans-Atlantic reports in the Cayman’s may have been possible. I look forward to seeing both Eden and Roger transmitting so we can test the reciprocity of those paths. I tend to believe that they exist more often than we realize.
In Alaska, Laurence, WE2XPQ / KL7L, experienced a typical night with reports along the West coast of North America into Arizona at WH2XND and WH2XCR in Hawaii.
In Hawaii, Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR, had a limited audience during this session due to storms in Australia. John, VK2XGJ, reports noise up to S9+ at local sunset but had a single report near Merv’s sunrise. The Japanese path remains closed in spite of stations being present during the session.
Jim, W5EST, continues his discussion on lightning and its impact in an article entitled, “STATION AND ANTENNA GROUNDING FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE RESILIENCE”:
Today I discuss outside grounding in station lightning protection in my own words with reference to Part 3 of a QST series on station lightning protection by Ron Block, KB2UYT in June-August, 2002. http://www.arrl.org/lightning-protection Tip us from your experience to tell in a future blogpost!
Recall from yesterday’s blog:
–Make an accurate, up-to-dateblock diagram of all shack equipment units and every electrical conductor or conductive object within a few feet of a shack radio unit. LF/MF equipment has probably added to your shack equipment and the associated safety thinking.
–A closed loop boundary around all the diagram blocks reveals all lines going through the boundary. Lightning-protect all such lines with line protectors grounded together.
EFFECTIVE OUTSIDE GROUNDING
—Ground the coax shield at the base and top of tower or at the base of LF/MF vertical. Ground the coax at the shack itself.
—Multiple buried strap radials and ground rods improve LF/MF TX antenna performance and promote lightning protection. To optimize lightning energy dissipation, space apart ground rods twice as far as they lie deep in the ground. Insert a stainless steel plate between copper strap and galvanized (zinc) steel.
—Strap-ground the LF/MF TX vertical itself and disconnect it from its coupling before Tstorms and before you go on a trip.
Drive the ground rods, don’t lower and hole-fill them. Soldering is useless since lightning blasts solder away. People use exothermic bonding, durable clamping physically and/or welding to bond radials and ground rods. Bond radials to existing metal posts, swing sets, and buried fuel tanks if the radials come within a few feet of same. Do a perimeter ground and connect it to the utility ground.
Establish coax grounding and radial grounding at the base of vertical and/or tower. Tower should be separated several tens of feet from shack. That makes for intrinsic coax cable shield inductance to impede lightning pulses while the antenna grounding dissipates part of the strike. Connect the shack bulkhead panel ground to the radial system with radial material.
Despite all precautions, a significant fraction of lightning strike energy becomes lightning’s “forward power” going toward your shack from the outdoors. That’s where the in-line protectors play their part at the shack panel.
What if your shack is on an upper floor instead of ground level? Panel ground (shack strap common) may need to go to a standpipe or cold water pipe even though it’s a poor RF ground. Keep chassis-to-chassis strike voltages near zero, and keep strike current from flowing through the shack protection boundary to priority equipment on your block diagram.
CONCLUSION: Do LF/MF Part 5 USA ops and LF/MF hams in other countries do all this? It somewhat depends on the intensity of their thunderstorm seasons and how expensive and difficult to replace they think their equipment is. Will non-Part 5 USA hams take lightning precautions if/when LF/MF bands are allocated in the US?
The US is a thunderstorm-prone country, and so are the countries of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Caribbean and Central American countries, the northern half of South America, and more heavily populated parts of Australia receive heavy thunderstorms likewise, not to mention many other places worldwide.
It takes work, planning and maybe even some wallet pain to set up an LF/MF station. Staying QRT during thunderstorm season doesn’t substitute for effective lightning protection itself. Let lightning protection simply be a planning step in your overall MF/LF setup process. That same planning can help protect your HF ham station at the same time!
Additions, corrections, clarifications, etc? Send me a message on the Contact page or directly to KB5NJD <at> gmail dot (com)!