This session experienced a bit of a slow start, at least here in Texas. The noise floor was extremely low, even prompting me to check the receiver and converter to make sure they were working nominally. They were. Slow starts and even very poor overnight conditions have been observed in previous years during late January and into February. Part of this is the coincidence of the CQ 160-meter CW contest this weekend. As I noted in the ON4KST chat/logger last night, we will probably have a skeleton crew on 630-meters this weekend. Geomagnetic activity was very quiet with solar wind at extremely low levels near 250 km/s. The Bz was at or near 0 nT through the session.
Larry, W7IUV / WH2XGP, noted that overall conditions were descent but activity seemed to be down. Larry noted that he had WSPR decodes of WD2XSH/15, which was unusual, and the east-west path was OK with reports from WG2XKA and WH2XZO.
Joe, VO1NA, was QRV once again with QRSS3 on 477.7 kHz. The only report was from Roelof, PA0RDT, who reports that band conditions were day and band noise was up in Europe.
VE3OT’s ‘MP’ QRSS beacon has returned to air after a catastrophic failure of the PA in the last few days. This is good timing since next weekend is the Midwinter 630-meter activity weekend. QSB was quite wild during the early evening and I did not hear the normally audible ‘MP’ signal. A quick look with Argo indicated a very weak signal after John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, reported the signal booming into Vermont.
Two minutes later I noticed that WG2XKA was decoded at a reasonable level on WSPR so I checked ‘MP’ again. What a difference 2-minutes makes!
In spite of the lower WSPR activity in North America through the session, 78 worldwide MF WSPR stations were observed on the WSPRnet activity page at 0120z.
HamWSPR, the WSPRnet alternative system yielded the following screen captures. It’s nice to see a few Europeans making the transition as well!
Regional and continental WSPR breakdowns follow:
VE1HF reported DK7FC and was reported by G3XKR on the trans-Atlantic path.
The trans-African path yielded reports by Michel, FR5ZX, for EA5DOM and DK7FC.
EA8BVP on the Canary Islands reported EA5DOM, DK7FC, and DH5RAE.
Halldor, TF3HZ, reported seven European stations during the session.
Eden, ZF1EJ, provided typical reports for eastern and southern US stations.
Laurence, KL7L / WE2XPQ, was not transmitting during this session but he did experience a remarkable opening through the auroral oval, reporting John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, in Vermont. That is a very long haul and a very difficult path as polar absorption normally intercedes. 99% of the time, this path won’t be open. What a great catch!
Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR, was not on the air through this session. I suspect he was operating in the CQ 160-meter CW contest.
Additional statistics, information, anecdotes, and comments:
Jim, W5EST, provided the first in a series of discussions on 630-meter propagation:
“VIEWPOINT: 630M PROPAGATION (1st of a multi-part series.)
When 630m ops talk about “propagation” we actually use several different meanings depending on what we have in mind.
Firstly, “propagation” can simply mean your signal travelling from the transmitter to a receiver. But we rarely mean only that which electromagnetic waves of RF actually do.
Second, we might speak of “propagation” like SNR declining to either refer to some QSB lasting a few minutes or to mention hours of slide in all-night band conditions. On the other hand, if there’s low band noise over several hours, and/or your signal is getting through to more stations than ever, the SNRs are good and that’s “good propagation” in some sense.
Third, we might use “propagation” to talk about ducting, or telling number of hops and which ionospheric region might be reflecting.
Fourth, we use “propagation” to describe the ionosphere generally – like some relative lack of absorption and/or some relatively high reflection regardless of whatever caused it.
Today, I mention some scenarios to focus in on this 4th meaning. Why? Not because it’s the “right” meaning. It’s because in future parts, let’s think over how to estimate this “propagation.”
If you dial up your transmitter power or transmit more frequently so your signal gets decoded with higher SNR and more often, this “propagation” is not different just because of what you did.
Does the transmit mode matter to the state of this 4th “propagation”? Same answer, even if you change from WSPR to CW and I can’t copy the CW at all. No, “propagation” in this 4th sense didn’t change. Ditto: If a 630m receiving station switches from a noisy attic antenna to a sensitive low noise outdoor loop, the “propagation” is nevertheless independent of the RX antenna changeover.
Suppose a thunderstorm rolls through some night and you can barely receive anything. The propagation isn’t any worse just because of a storm. On the other hand, if the sun comes up after a clear night and you can barely receive anything, “propagation” seems worse indeed.
How about receiving equal-powered TX stations located at different distances? The “propagation” isn’t necessarily different even though their SNRs may be quite different. Or, suppose a half-watt 630m DX station in southern Italy delivered your mid-USA station a first-ever -33dB WSPR transatlantic decode some evening. We’d say the “propagation” was good even though the SNR was rock bottom.
In future parts of this propagation discussion, I’ll describe some methods of estimating this 4th “propagation.” Do you have any thoughts about it already? Let us know, and I’ll try to include your ideas.”
Additions, corrections, clarifications, etc? Send me a message on the Contact page!