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Author Topic: The future of HF?  (Read 12816 times)
JAYMOT
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Posts: 24




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« on: October 07, 2017, 03:10:41 AM »

First, I'm an SWL, not a ham. Even so, I only get in the mood to listen every so often. The mood has struck me these past few nights so I fired up my Tecsun PL-310ET and ran the ET scanner to let it detect live stations. Usually I'd get several dozen but lately there have only been two or three, and those are all Chinese stations. As I'm in the Philippines, hearing China is no big deal. I used to pick up Saudi Arabia, All India Radio (love the music!), Japan, Australia and several Christian broadcasters on Pacific islands, but no more.

That got me to wondering about propagation. It seems that we're now at the tail end of solar cycle 24, which had the lowest solar activity in 100 years. This means that SW won't pick up again for around a decade. I decided to have a look-see about what the predictions are for cycle 25 and the consensus is that it will be even less active than 24, with a possibility of no sunset activity at all. Indeed, cycle 25 just might not even take place!

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/06/110614-sun-hibernation-solar-cycle-sunspots-space-science/

In terms of global climate change, the last time this happened was the Maunder Minimum which lasted from circa 1645 to 1715 and caused the "Little Ice Age" in Europe where winters were way colder than normal, summers were cool and wetter, crops failed, and it was generally a bad time for all. The good news, climatically speaking, is that due to increased CO2 levels we probably won't get another mini ice age, but the bad news is that when solar activity increases again and if CO2 levels don't at least level off we'll, or our kids or grandkids will, be in for a terrible time when temps start to rise and rise. (OTOH a solar minimum might buy us more time to get greenhouse gasses under control, so there's that: assuming we do it, that is.)

What this has to do with HF is rather dire too. It means that old farts like me may never again have a lively, fun time listening to shortwave within our lifetimes, and a generation or two will grow up with very poor HF propagation so any wannabe-SWLs among the youngsters will be out of luck and SWLing as a hobby may finally die out and any wannabe-hams will all be into VHF/UHF/satellite and digital modes only, unless some technological breakthrough involving HF happens (HF repeaters? HF becoming popular as repeaterless regional  (i.e. statewide/provincewide) rather than global communications? HF -> satellite -> HF relaying?)

All I know is I'm in the mood to listen but there ain't anything on the air. Sad
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W1VT
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Posts: 2530




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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2017, 05:52:38 AM »

Propagation wasn't an issue with previous solar minimums because broadcasters would run so much power into big antennas.

The real issue with shortwave broadcasting is that it just can't compete with the Internet as a propaganda or advertising media.  With the Internet you get instant feedback and tons of statistical data to see how well you did in getting your message out.  There is no practical way to do this with Shortwave.

Zack W1VT
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KAPT4560
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2017, 06:23:35 AM »

 I listen to the old National nightly before bed. Radio Ankara, Turkey has an evening program in English. I also enjoy their music.
 WBCQ-7490 in Monticello Maine comes in reliably and the programming is pleasant and varied for the most part.
Religion and politics can get tiring to listen to and I usually turn the knob to find other things.
 SWL is like fishing. You never know what you will pull in next.
 During the day, I build and test radios. Harris still invests in HF for it's BLOS (beyond-line-of-sight) characteristics. Modern technology has kept HF relevant and not everything has moved into VHF/UHF/Sat for comms:
 https://www.harris.com/solution-grouping/tactical-hf-radios
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AA6YQ
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WWW

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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2017, 01:20:39 PM »

It seems that we're now at the tail end of solar cycle 24, which had the lowest solar activity in 100 years. This means that SW won't pick up again for around a decade.

The solar cycle's duration is 11 years. If we're near a minimum, the next peak will be 5.5 years from now; propagation will have noticeably improved ~3 years from now.

I decided to have a look-see about what the predictions are for cycle 25 and the consensus is that it will be even less active than 24, with a possibility of no sunset activity at all. Indeed, cycle 25 just might not even take place!

If cycle 24 has exposed anything, it's that our solar physics models are not accurate -- making predictions about future cycles less reliable.
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KC4ZGP
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2017, 05:38:12 PM »


10-4 Zack.

Why spend money on a 100,00 watt transmitter when the internet is free for all.

Get rid of internet and the big guns will return including everyone's favorite Radio Moscow.

Wheew!

Kraus

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K0UA
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Posts: 1468




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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2017, 07:53:42 PM »

Both 10 and 15 meters were both open worldwide today.  10 was of course not as active as 15, but even on 10 I heard a few europeans, and a few asians.  Of course south America, but that is every day. Things don't always work out as expected.  You have to be on every day to catch openings. Some days are pretty sparse, but some are great.
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JAYMOT
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Posts: 24




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« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2017, 12:22:50 AM »

It seems that we're now at the tail end of solar cycle 24, which had the lowest solar activity in 100 years. This means that SW won't pick up again for around a decade.

The solar cycle's duration is 11 years. If we're near a minimum, the next peak will be 5.5 years from now; propagation will have noticeably improved ~3 years from now.

I decided to have a look-see about what the predictions are for cycle 25 and the consensus is that it will be even less active than 24, with a possibility of no sunset activity at all. Indeed, cycle 25 just might not even take place!

If cycle 24 has exposed anything, it's that our solar physics models are not accurate -- making predictions about future cycles less reliable.


Well, that's good to hear (read.) That means I may still be able to pick up some DX before I'm done. Of course in my new QTH I have to redefine what "DX" is compared to the US left coast where I'm from. WWV would be DX for me now. Smiley
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JAYMOT
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Posts: 24




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« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2017, 12:38:30 AM »

Propagation wasn't an issue with previous solar minimums because broadcasters would run so much power into big antennas.

The real issue with shortwave broadcasting is that it just can't compete with the Internet as a propaganda or advertising media.  With the Internet you get instant feedback and tons of statistical data to see how well you did in getting your message out.  There is no practical way to do this with Shortwave.

Zack W1VT


There are QSL cards and little gift items to encourage listeners to provide feedback but 1. those are more expensive for the stations than just gathering website hit stats, and 2. there's no way to judge the actual number of listeners as only a small percent will contact the station with reception reports or comments on programming, and no way to tell what percentage that is vs. total number of listeners. Getting feedback from a higher percentage of listeners costs more in trinkets sent to them in return. I think Radio Netherlands had a good idea with its Happy Station show where they'd give listeners birthday greetings on the air, read their questions and answer them, and so on. They had a lot of interaction with their listeners for many years. (I remember one show where a girl who was planning to attend a certain university in the Netherlands asked about the costs of housing and living, and the host telephoned the dean to ask him personally, on the air. The dean didn't sound very pleased, and I could hear people talking and dishes clattering in the background so it seemed the station had interrupted his dinner party or something!)

I don't know what it is, but there's something exciting about hearing a distant station whose radio waves are reaching my very house from thousands of miles away vs. just listening to a live stream on the Internet. It's the same with ham communications: talking to someone far away over the air vs. on an Internet chatroom sort of thing. That's something I can't figure out how to explain to people.
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NO2A
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Posts: 1205




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« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2017, 02:16:07 PM »

One of the biggest complaints about streaming radio over the Internet is connection issues. There are stations I enjoy listening to. Some stations are only available on certain sites,and not all sites work without issues. You could be listening to a station and suddenly it stops streaming, which is a common problem. It happens regardless of using WiFi or your own data. Some sites require using your phone screen, which of course drains your battery. I've found a site which works without using your screen, it does work well with few issues, but doesn't have every station I listen to.  This is why I still prefer radio. As far as hf,you can still enjoy the lower bands when conditions aren't so hot. There will be some band openings from time to time.
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K0UA
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« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2017, 08:39:44 PM »

Quote
There will be some band openings from time to time

Like today when 15 was open worldwide most of the day.  10 was open to south America,
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AF6AU
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Posts: 64




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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2017, 09:32:15 AM »

Jaymot:
As the sunspots get fewer and their energy lessens, the next best mode if ionosphere "stimulation" is solar corona hole produced solar winds. Solar corona holes are viewable on websites like www.spaceweather.com and www.sohowww.nascomm.nasa.gov/  . A large corona hole (like the one that just passed 10/11-10/14 fuels the high band whoopee and the high latitude aurouas that everybody likes. The solar winds (mostly protons and electrons) from these lasts 2-3 days. So use these sites to get an idea what is going on and coming. However a sleepy sun also means low band activity, usually below 8Mhz, and even into the AM broadcast band. The lower bands are noisy with lightning storm crashes and man generated garbage, but if you have a decent long wire (10 meters long or more) you should find listenable stations at night.

Yes, the internet and satellite technology have made an impact, and will continue to do so, but there are a LOT of people that live in rural areas of the world that cannot afford such luxury, and their primary source of information is still a simple radio.
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JAYMOT
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2017, 10:25:49 AM »

AF6AU: That explains the news article I recently read about people in Washington State being treated to a display of the aurora borealis. I grew up there and never saw any aurora: that was considered to be an Alaska thing. I'll bookmark those sites in my SW folder. Thanks.

Edit: the NASA URL isn't working.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2017, 10:31:58 AM by JAYMOT » Logged
ONAIR
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2017, 12:24:10 PM »

The internet is great, as long as it's available and working!   Roll Eyes
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WW7KE
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2017, 12:42:50 PM »

The internet is great, as long as it's available and working!   Roll Eyes

Kinda like sunspots and the ionosphere. Grin
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He speaks fluent PSK31...  One QSO with him earns you 5BDXCC...  His Wouff Hong has two Wouffs... Hiram Percy Maxim called HIM "The Old Man..."  He is... The Most Interesting Ham In The World!
VK5EEE
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Posts: 1209




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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2017, 07:14:27 PM »

A great original post and follow up comments, all very valid points. Yes sadly those great years of HF being full of signals and a VARIETY of stations and view points have all but gone, HF is a boring place now most of the time. However, don't trust predictions too much, see my comments which were included at the end of this Propagation Bulletin Forecast: http://www.arrl.org/w1aw-bulletins-archive/ARLP036/2017

I think the good years are indeed over because if we get the next solar maximum 10m and 12m will be full of illegal CB stations, and 40m, 30m and even 20m there are many pirates. Perhaps only 15 and 17m will be the best bands free of pirates and rising local noise levels.
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Long Live Real Human CW and wishing you many happy CW QSO - 77 - CW Forever

Support CW and join CW clubs. QTT: FIST#1124, HSC#1437, UFT#728, RCWC#982, SKCC#15007, CWOPS#1714, 30CW#1,
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