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Author Topic: HF winter propagation  (Read 3206 times)
M5AEO
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Posts: 254




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« on: December 09, 2012, 08:29:22 AM »

For the past week or so I have had no contacts at all on any of the HF bands.  It was so bad that I thought my aerial had fallen down!  I do hear some broadcast stations below 10 Mhz, but I had one poor contact with Italy on 20m and that's it.
As I have ascertained that my aerial hasn't fallen down, can I assume that I am experiencing winter propagation?  Is this because we have less daylight / shorter days in winter?  Will HF burst into life again in the spring?  I heard nothing at all in the 10m contest, and only hear very weak signals on 40m.
Any propagation gurus please enlighten us!

Jonathan, M5AEO, London, UK.
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KA4POL
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Posts: 1854




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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2012, 08:58:45 AM »

What type antenna do you use? How is it installed? Are you able to change direction?
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M6GOM
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Posts: 861




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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2012, 09:09:29 AM »

Something is broken if you've not heard European stations on 20m during the day/early evening.
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W1JKA
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Posts: 1613




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« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2012, 09:31:20 AM »

    Have you put up a quick temporary longwire to rule out possible radio reception problems?
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M5AEO
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Posts: 254




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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2012, 07:26:21 AM »

Thanks for your input.  The antenna is a home-brew helical vertical, 60 feet above ground with 14 tuned radials.  It has always been a compromise antenna but I usually get reliable coverage into Europe on 7Mhz and upwards.  Obviously living in the city centre there is a lot of noise anyway.  It's just that recently signals on the upper HF bands have been particularly poor.  I know that activity shifts down to the lower bands during winter, but there's no way I can get onto those low frequencies.  Still, there's always 2 metres!

M5AEO


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WX7G
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Posts: 5908




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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2012, 08:03:39 AM »

Ten meters was not great for the contest but it wasn't bad either. You either have a problem with your antenna or with your receiver.
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K8AXW
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Posts: 3594




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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2012, 09:17:37 AM »

Are you feeding the antenna with an antenna tuner?  Can you drive the antenna directly with our rig?  What is the SWR?  Is the power output where you expect it to be?

You'll notice there are no answers here, just questions.  These should be included in your question to help answer your question.

If you're antenna used to work ok, then it still should be working..... ok.
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20537




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« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2012, 11:40:35 AM »

I worked a lot of Europeans, including a few U.K. stations, in the 10m contest yesterday (around 1800 UTC) from here in California.  Some were very strong.  For a while there, I think the strongest station on the band was EA8DO (I think it was -- don't have my log here at the office), from ~6000 miles away.

Bands aren't that bad.

They're also not that great. Wink   But it's incredibly rare that 20m doesn't have at least daytime propagation.  I think the last time I heard 20m fall apart was right after a huge solar CME that created about an R2 or R3 radio blackout for a few hours.  Band came back several hours after that.
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KQ0C
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Posts: 25




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« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2012, 03:08:03 PM »

Check the RF gain on your radio... or the Attenuator. Both could cause you to seem to hear nothing.
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AC5UP
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Posts: 3812




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« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2012, 03:17:29 PM »

Many Moon ago my FT-901DM had a slightly sticky RF attenuator switch that caused the attenuator to be ON all the time.

The radio worked well.  On strong signals.  But on medium to weak signals, not so much.
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Never change a password on a Friday                
WA3SKN
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Posts: 5419




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« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2012, 05:47:40 AM »

Not sure what frequency or time you are talking about, but 160 thru 10 meters have had signals depending on time of day... at least at my house.  Your antenna may not have fallen down, but it may have an open connection or be shorted.  I would inspect it more closely.
73s.

-Mike.
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KD4SBY
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Posts: 222




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« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2012, 06:23:13 AM »

If you have a computer, there is a way to check propagation on the East coast quickly. Go to the W4AX SDR website, (http://www.w4ax.com/) and you will connect to the remotely controlled SDR HAM receiver located in Atlanta, GA. It shows a waterfall display of all signals received, and you can tune the receiver  from your computer to any frequency in the lower HF bands. I found out that I could hear in my QTH in Florida, any of the stations I could hear on the SDR radio on the computer, thus it is a good indicator how the propagation is on any of the HF bands on the East Coast.
BTW there is also one in Europe that you can use to check DX or just listen to Commercial SW Radio. It is located  at the Twente University in Eastern Holland, and this one tunes from 0 to 29 MHz!
( http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/)
Try these two websites, it is fun to be able to tune the bands from your computer!
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ES1TU
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Posts: 290


WWW

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« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2012, 09:54:05 AM »

Jonathan,

Seasons do have their impact to HF propagation, for sure. My 3 years on HF have taught me this general rule:

10m, 12m, 15m: best openings to JA, VK, ZL, W1..W9 in Oct-Nov. Feb-Mar, almost as good.
20m: very good openings to W6,7 on summer mornings May-Aug

During these times 2el directional antenna is all it takes to work plenty of dx. Like you - I live in the suburbs and low band work is problematic,
to say the least. Dec-Jan is the most difficult time. But hey - let's enjoy Christmas, plan antennas, deal with QSL cards.
From February 15m and 10m will be full of JA-s (and other dx) again Wink

PS - I REALLY advise you to consider horizontal (directional if you can) antenna in addition to your vertical.
I did, and it put this hobby into the whole new perspective for me.
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K8AXW
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Posts: 3594




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« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2012, 10:29:22 AM »

The man "hasn't made any contacts on any of the HF bands for a week or so."

Propagation isn't a problem here.  If people are making contacts with QRP and crummy antennas, surely AEO and make a contact with his setup!

He has a major problem.  It is either the antenna system or the receiver as 5UP and 0C point out.  At any rate, he needs to evaluate these two things first.  Therein lies his problem.  Not propagation.
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M5AEO
Member

Posts: 254




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« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2012, 01:42:05 PM »

UPDATE FROM M5AEO!

I think I've been suffering from a combination of poor propagation and high noise.  For most of the time over the past week 20m has had a constant noise level of S7 to 8.  Today the noise suddenly disappeared and like magic I was able to hear SSB signals again!  I even worked JX9 (Jan Mayan Island) on 17m and exchanged 5,9 signals both ways.  I thought there was nothing terribly wrong with my antenna as the SWR readings and ATU settings were the same as always.  I generally find that if the SWR reading changes, then something is wrong/ changed in the antenna system, but in this instance things were okay.
So, now I have to find the source of the noise.  I'm guessing that a neighbour in my appartment block has bought a new plasma TV set, and they spend most of the day watching TV!
The joys of urban ham radio!

Thanks for all the interest.
M5AEO.
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