Sunday, March 17, 2013

Propagational Time-Out?

HAARP - My Icom is no match for high solar winds today!
Spaceweather has been a bit of a topic the last 24 hours or so. We are currently experiencing the effects of a Coronal mass ejection (CME). The increase in solar wind also brings an increase of absorption. Saturday was not too bad when it came to band conditions. I have a short weekend, so I opted to do less radio on Saturday and set aside a bit more time on Sunday. Well, as luck would have it, the solar wind increased and when I woke up early this morning, there was not one signal on any of the bands. 

JT65Flat Screen (JT65-HF)
 As noon on Sunday approached, the bands did not even show signs of getting any better. I left my rig sitting on the 20 meter JT65 frequency and not a single station was decoded all morning. Here is the screen shot I took early this afternoon local time (to the right). JT65 is a great weak signal mode however, when the bands are this bad due to geomagnetic activity, not even the weak signal stuff will do any good. I have found also that JT65 does have trouble decoding signals with Auroral Influence (AI) and you can easily tell by the signal signature on the waterfall, if a signal does have any AI. 

Auroral Influence (JT65-HF)
The example of the AI to the left shows what JT65 signals look like on  the waterfall of the JT65-HF software. The signals looks as if it's "smeared" and not well defined. And as you can see, the last decoded transmission was at 2156z and I show nothing decoded  at 2159z, but it's apparent that signals are on the band. Personally, I think Olivia seems to function the best under these type of rough band conditions. PSK31 is not even an option with bands this tough, as I won't decode a signal. But as I mentioned earlier this morning during a conversation I was having on Twitter, when I moved to Alaska, the term "Radio Blackout" hit home. 

Auroral Oval as seen from Ovation Aurora
So, what is a ham to do when the bands are dead quiet? Well in my case, my weekly trip to the Post Office yielded plenty of direct QSL card requests including a nice full envelope of cards from the Alaska QSL Bureau. I also received the latest CQ and QST magazines! So, I have plenty to keep me busy. From what I'm reading, I think it will be a few days before the bands heal. I do have my camera battery charged up and ready for some auroral displays. I read last night, it was pretty good. We have been experiencing very clear and colder weather but the clear skies at night will make for some great aurora viewing. So, I will try to stay up tonight and see if the St. Patrick's Day green will extend into the heavens above. With the Spring Equinox just a few days away, this is when most will tell you it's the best time to view the aurora above. 

Photo ©KL8DX 
If I had to attach a visual representation of what it's like to operate ham radio during this type of band conditions, I would have to say the photo to the left does just that. And oddly, these tough conditions normally hit on the weekends! But I hope that maybe, just maybe, we will see in increase in the solar flux and 10 meters will once again come alive. I love that band! And in speaking of 10 meters, I read this morning in the March edition of CQ Magazine that I will have a bit more wallpaper to enjoy. It appears that I managed to take top spot during the 2012 CQ WW DX RTTY Contest on 10 meters, low power, single band, single operator, Alaska. My wife tells me she can always tell when I get my new magazines. My bathroom visits tend to take much longer but thankfully, we have two bathrooms in our house. 

So, when it comes to operating ham radio during high absorption weekends, I feel like the moose in the photo above I took here at Denali. But a bad day of ham radio is always better than a good day at work, right? 


  1. It was the same down this way as well tried the Russian DX contest on Saturday but ended up plugging the plug a few hours into it. As you said Sunday was no better either so it was off to the bench to work on some assembly projects.

  2. Phil,
    You are onto something here that is which digital mode survives and performs during a solar event and maybe worth experimenting with?
    73, Scot KA3DRR

  3. Mike, I think sometimes my wife has connections with the solar event staff. When something REALLY needs to be accomplished at home, it's funny how we have high absorption during those time periods. :0)

    Scot, I enjoy operating during challenging times and to this date, Olivia seems to be my favorite with AU influenced bands. There are several modes I have yet to try but of the most popular, that is from my personal experience.