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Propagation Forecast Bulletin #1 de K7RA:

from W1AW Bulletin via the ARRL on January 8, 2010
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Propagation Forecast Bulletin #1 de K7RA:

Propagation Forecast Bulletin 1 ARLP001
>From Tad Cook, K7RA
Seattle, WA January 8, 2010
To all radio amateurs

ARLP001 Propagation de K7RA

Recent sunspot activity is increasing, and the numbers bear this out.

The average daily sunspot number for 2009 was 5. The average for 2008 was 4.7. Not much difference in those numbers, but those are for calendar years, and the trend toward the end of 2009 was increasing sunspot activity.

Average daily sunspot numbers for 1999-2009 were 136.3, 173, 170.3, 176.6, 109.2, 68.6, 48.9, 26.1, 12.8, 4.7 and 5.

A few years ago we began recording a moving average of daily sunspot numbers based on three calendar months, to help us spot a sunspot cycle bottom. Perhaps this would give us a more immediate indication than smoothed sunspot numbers, which use a whole year of data.

Because we now have all of the sunspot numbers for December, we can calculate the three month average centered on November 2009, 10.16, which is the highest it has been since August 2007 when it was 10.17. We will know the average centered on December at the end of January.

Over the past couple of years it looked like the moving average bottomed out several times. In late 2007 it appeared we hit bottom when the three-month average centered on October dropped to 3. Then the average rose, and was in the range of 8.23 to 8.89 centered on December 2007 through April 2008. The average declined again, and hit 1.1 in August 2008. In September through November it moved to 2.5, 4.52 and 4.39, then declined to a new minimum of 1.5 in March, 2009. From there it rose, stalled and rose dramatically when from April through November 2009 it was 2.01, 4.23, 5.2, 4, 4, 4.64, 7.1 and 10.163. The average daily sunspot number for just the month of December was 15.7, which is a good trend, 5.54 points higher than the 3-month average.

On Wednesday of this week the sunspot number was zero, but it rose to 15 on Thursday with the appearance of new sunspot group 1040. Over the weekend sunspot groups 1036 and 1038 are due to return, although we don't know yet if they are still powerful enough to be classed as sunspots.

The latest prediction is for geomagnetic conditions to remain quiet, with the anticipated planetary A index at 5. But looking at recent predictions from USAF/NOAA, that value is probably a maximum, since they have predicted that value almost every day for months, and actual numbers were better (lower). Check the table at and note that the planetary A index hasn't gone as high as 5, and as of Friday morning the last time it rose to 4 was December 14.

The same prediction shows solar flux at 79 for today (January 8), 80 on January 9-10, 82 on January 11, 84 on January 12, and 86 for January 13-15.

Regarding recent conditions, from last week, Jeff Hartley, N8II of Shepherdstown, West Virginia said in a New Years Eve email that conditions seemed poorer on the higher bands (17 meters and up) than the solar activity would suggest.

But then Jeff saw better conditions on lower frequencies. He writes, "Last night, the 30th was exceptional on 30, 80, and 160. Several loud longpath JAs were worked on 30M, I tried 20M longpath to no avail around 2320Z. Then signals from northern EU and other EU were booming in on 160 from 0020-0130Z, I caught TF3SG on SSB. All of the EUs heard on 80 at the same time were loud, and 4S7NE was about S6-7 on 80 CW around 0120Z near his sunrise, attracting a crowd."

Last week we had an interesting email exchange with Jerry Spring, VE6CNU of Calgary, Alberta, and comments from Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, when I passed Jerry's email on to him.

Jerry thinks that HF conditions are poorer than expected, given the solar activity. He feels that conditions have not improved, and wonders if there needs to be a certain threshold of activity, enough to "kick-start" the F layers of the ionosphere.

Carl's comment was that we really haven't seen much sunspot activity, enough to raise the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency). Carl analyzed ionosonde data from Wallops Island in Virginia from last August, and attached a graph representing the rise and fall of MUF from day to day. To see it, go to the web site

Carl wrote, "It shows the day-to-day variation of the F2 region MUF over the Wallops Island ionosonde assuming it's the mid point of a 3000 km hop. Note that the MUF varies from a low of 11.6 MHz to a high of 21.5 MHz - and to reiterate, this is with zero sunspots and no change in solar flux. Thus there are other factors that ultimately determine the ionization - and these are geomagnetic field activity and events in the lower atmosphere coupling up to the ionosphere. Surprisingly the day-to-day variation of the F2 region is more due to these two factors than a small change in sunspots or solar flux. In fact, these two factors generally mask any small increase in sunspots and solar flux."

Carl emphasized that only when sunspot activity rises significantly will we see any long term improvements. When we notice an improvement in propagation, it may be due to other factors, including seasonal changes.

Don't miss Carl's personal web site, a great resource devoted to propagation at He writes the excellent monthly propagation column for WorldRadio Online, with a new issue on the twentieth of each month, at Note on that page there is a link on the left to back issues starting with February 2009.

Tom Russell, N4KG of Harvest, Alabama lives for 160 and 80 meters. He has an impressive array of antenna arrays at his place in the woods west of Huntsville, including large ground plane antennas for 80 and 160, inverted L for 160, and dipoles on 80. In fact, I was just admiring his antennas, not from his photos, but publicly available aerial images. I went to and clicked on Maps, then entered his address and ZIP code from his license record. He is actually west of the location that you land on, at the end of a road. Click on Aerial, then Bird's Eye, and note you can click on vantage points from four directions, and can also zoom in. Look for multiple telltale Yagis in the woods.

Tom tells us that November and December had some fantastic 160 and 80 meter conditions, and he sent a long log listing of contacts in Russia and Northern Europe from December 11-13, most on December 12 and most on 160 meters. He notes more shortpath UA9s in two months than in 30 years operating in Northern Alabama. He says "These Russian openings are not daily events by any means but there have been (and continue to be) several very good nights (and mornings). My friend N4NO (PhD in electromagnetic Field Theory and Communications and very active DXer) suggested that these openings are the result of historically low geomagnetic activity, a "seminal event."

Among his contacts over those days on 160 (mostly CW) were 4O3A, EI2CN, ES2DJ, LA5HE, LY2J, LZ1ANA (S9++), RA0ALM (Zone 18, just north of JT), RA1AOB, RA3DOX, RA4LW, RU3DX, RU4SU, RX4HZ, RX9FM (Zone 17), SM6CPY, TF3SG, TF4M, UA3BS, UA3TCJ, UA4CC, UA4HBW, UA9MA, UR0MC, UW7CN, UX1UA, UY0ZG, YL2SM, and ZC4VJ.

On 80 meters he worked RA4CC, RK3ER, SM4OTI (S9+), TF3SG (S9 SSB), UA3TCJ, UA4HBW, UA4LY, UA9FMZ, UA9YAB, UU9DX, and UX4UU. At the end of it all, his amplifier died on December 13 and then he worked RA0ALM, RA1AOB and UA3TCJ barefoot.

Tom reported on January 2 that "RZ0AF has been camping out on 160 and 80 Meters (3521), morning and night, around 1200 to 1300Z and Friday evening from 2300Z to 0400Z, well past his sunrise which is around 0200Z. He is located in Krasnoyarsk, about 300 miles north of the NW border with JT, in Zone 18. Is there a Big 160M station in UA0Y (Zone 23 - my last needed Zone on 160M)?"

"UA9MA has also been active on 160 and 80M from Omsk in the SE corner of Zone 17, peaking 569 on 3524 at 0342Z last night (Jan 2 in GMT). UA9KAA was running NA on 1823 (up 1) from 0500 to 0600Z, peaking 569 at times. He is in Northern Siberia in Zone 17. RX4HZ was 599+ on 40M with a little help from his 4L Quad at 30M high at 0600Z."

The STEREO Mission has been a tremendous asset, and this year is expected to move into a position which allows us to see magnetic activity on the whole Sun. This weekend, on January 9 at 0836z the two satellites will be in position to see 87% of the Sun, with the invisible spot on the far side exactly 13%. 88% coverage (with 12% invisible) will be achieved at 0611z on February 25, 2010.

If you would like to make a comment or have a tip for our readers, email the author at,

For more information concerning radio propagation, see the ARRL Technical Information Service web page at, For a detailed explanation of the numbers used in this bulletin, see An archive of past propagation bulletins is at

Monthly propagation charts between four USA regions and twelve overseas locations are at

Sunspot numbers for December 31 through January 6 were 16, 16, 22, 20, 15, 13, and 0 with a mean of 14.6. 10.7 cm flux was 79.9, 75.2, 78, 76.4, 73, 76.8, and 77.3 with a mean of 76.7. Estimated planetary A indices were 1, 1, 0, 3, 2, 1 and 1 with a mean of 1.3. Estimated mid-latitude A indices were 0, 2, 1, 3, 1, 1 and 0 with a mean of 1.1.

Source: W1AW Bulletin via the ARRL.

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