In previous years February has been very unforgiving for 630-meters. I can recall 2013 where the entire month was in a slump. Similar anaemic band conditions persisted in February of 2014 and 2015. Fortunately the pattern appears to be broken. Maybe its dumb luck or maybe the progression of the sunspot cycle but was band was “on” last night as unsettled geomagnetic conditions returned. I’ve been a proponent of the concept of “onset enhancements” because I could almost “set my watch by it” on 160-meters in past years and have seen similar behavior on 630-meters. Timing is everything when the geomagnetic field becomes active.
A review of my WSPR data overnight yielded a number of periods of very strong reports but they were by no means all-time high numbers. A lot of stations experienced similar reports. In this session, I am content with the success of simply observing an open path, even if its -30 dB S/N. If the path is good enough to support a QSO, that’s even better.
The geomagnetic field was unsettled with a moderately south-pointing Bz. The solar wind velocities persist near 350 km/s.
John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, experienced a banner night, with the trifecta of trans-Atlantic, trans-Pacific and an open high latitude path to Alaska that takes his signal through the auroral oval. John had this to say:
Similarly Larry, W7IUV / WH2XGP, experienced an open path to John, VK2XGJ, which has not occurred in some time. Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR, also made the long haul trip:
Neil, W0YSE/7 / WG2XSV, provided the following report of the session from his perspective in Vancouver, Washington:
WSPR activity was high, although the session started slow with a count in the high-60’s reported on the WSPRnet activity page near 0000z. Later evening in North America yielded nearly 80 MF WSPR stations. NE4U from Wisconsin was observed as a new receive stations during this session. Welcome aboard!
Regional and continental WSPR breakdowns follow:
There were no reports on the trans-African path. UA0SNV and TF3HZ were both present but had no reports in the WSPRnet database.
WG2XKA in Vermont and DK7FC held the monopoly on trans-Atlantic activity during the session:
Eden, ZF1EJ, and Roger, ZF1RC, had another duplicate session in the Caribbean, decoding the same stations. Roger and I exchanged emails yesterday afternoon about recent conditions and how the band would be closed in the Caribbean, only to open for no apparent reason later in the evening. This behavior is bizarre because through the Fall and early Winter the band was basically open when the path experienced common darkness. I went on to comment about how great it would be for Roger to report my signal in daylight only to actually do it a few minutes later. Roger provided two reports about 15 minutes prior to my sunset in Texas followed by a gap of nearly 40 minutes before the next report. As this distance is consistent with many of my daytime reports, I wonder if there is a possibility of an opening during the day when both ends are in full sun? Perhaps Al, WI2XBV, in Florida can test this during the day with Roger some time over a considerably shorter path.
Laurence, KL7L / WE2XPQ, had a much stronger session than the previous with reports of WG2XKA in Vermont and me, WG2XIQ, in Texas. The report of WG2XKA means the signal travelled through (or around?) the auroral oval, a very unlikely path when conditions are active unless a duct forms. Based on email posts, it appeared that Laurence had intended to run WSPR15 earlier than he did, instead remaining on WSPR2 until a few hours prior to sunrise where he switched to WSPR15. KL7L was designed as receive-only through this session.
Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR, experienced a strong session with decodes from VK3ELV, VK2XGJ, VK2DDI, and JH3XCU, in addition to decoding VK3ELV. Merv’s signal was very strong on the US mainland, with reports on the East coast by Bill, N3CXV / WH2XRR, on a 7700 km path in addition to a decode of John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, in Vermont on an almost 8000 km path. Could it be that factors influencing the open path to Alaska also be at work in this opening to Hawaii?
John, VK2XGJ, provided the following console shot displaying a number of VK signals in addition to WH2XCR as well as WH2XGP in the dataset.
Phil, VK3ELV, had a mixture of reports from JH1INM and JH3XCU, some of which occurred late in the previous session.
Additional anecdotes, comments, statistics and information:
Ken, K5DNL / WG2XXM, notes that he decoded seven unique stations using the high-Z receive vertical.
Jim, W5EST, and I have been discussing the path from WG2XKA to WE2XPQ today. At odds is whether the path went through the auroral oval, around the oval, or neither because the oval did not extend far enough during the session. Unfortunately finding the oval pictures from that time period have proven futile. Steve, VE7SL, indicates that there was no aurora in British Columbia. Laurence, KL7L / WE2XPQ, notes that he did not look last night but it may have been there. He adds that normally being south of the auroral oval line is safe and used the analogy of watching a tornado from a distance. With all that in mind, Jim, W5EST, offered the following comments and graphic for the path:
Yesterday afternoon yielded surprising reports for my station from Bob, W5EMC, in Austin, Texas, about 200 miles to the south of Dallas. From previous discussions with Bob he had adjusted his SDR bandwidth to achieve some rather large signals from me but with all of the recent “weird” band conditions we have experienced I thought it would be good to ask. Here is the response I got from him this morning:
At 0145z, I called CQ on 474.5 kHz CW for approximately 15 minutes looking for a QSO. No additional QSO’s were reported but I do expect to begin working Steve, KF5RYI / WG2XIQ/1 again on a daily basis as soon as he completes his antenna improvements.
Jim, W5EST, provided the following commentary entitled, “JT9 SHORT SKY PATH ONE-NIGHT PROFILE IN PACIFIC NORTHWEST”:
“Neil, WG2XSV W0YSE, transmits 630m from Vancouver, Washington, across the Columbia River from Oregon. http://w0yse.webs.com/Toby VE7CNF has his 630 m station at Burnaby, British Columbia, near Vancouver, B.C. These stations capably offer WSPR, JT9, and even SSTV depending on the night. http://phasordesign.com/VE7CNFamateurRadio/.
Neil e-mailed: “Hi Jim, Last night I did a JT9 beacon all night [Feb. 10] on 474.2 kHz+1200hz. Toby copied his decodes of it and put it into two documents and sent them to me. I have attached them for you to look at since they may have propagation info…”
My scatterplot illustrates their JT9 SNRs overnight over this short sky-wave path. 215 decodes of JT9 in 265 timeslots (81%) speaks well of JT9 and these TX/RX stations. The JT9 decode threshold was about -26 to -22 dB, consistent with the tabulation in the Feb. 8 blog.
Neil & Toby’s story starts about 10p.m., 4½ hours after sunset. SNR trended up 6 dB/hour for 3 hours and then steadied for 2 hours at a median SNR -13dB, peaking -6dB. SIQ* was fully variable at 7dB. Then a not-unusual wee-hours SNR roller coaster went down-up-down and ended shortly before sunrise five hours later. Notice the numerous non-decodes 3-4 a.m. followed by recovery to -8dB at 5:30-6:00 a.m.
The SIQ* story over that night shows an overall value of 7dB, which is pretty typical of 630 m all over much of North America in my experience. Narrower SIQ values did occur in the evening and in the predawn recovery. But the SNR roller coaster ride made the 7dB all-night SIQ come out about the same as during the midnight epoch.
Doppler often shows rain this time of year along this Pacific Northwest path. Lightning strikes are generally infrequent or absent there, see worldwide lightning network. http://radar.weather.gov/ridge/Conus/pacnorthwest.php
http://wwlln.net/WWLLN_movies/Movie_of_Lightning_in_Americas_BIG.gif Possibly wee-hours storm noise might account for the non-decodes, but the 7dB SIQ is consistent with nights around N. America that are clear. A propagation explanation for the SNR roller coaster is probable in my opinion, even if indeed somewhat exacerbated by regional storm noise. Toby e-mailed, “It was a dry night nere, so my noise level was probably steady. On rainy nights, raindrops hitting the 230kV power lines near my house can raise my noise level by 20 dB.”
Thanks to Neil and Toby for their 630m JT9 run, which further contributes to our growing experience of 630m!
*SIQ is the dB range encompassing the middle 50% of TX spots ranked by SNR.”
Additions, corrections, clarifications, etc? Send me a message on the Contact page or directly to KB5NJD <at> gmail dot (com)!