Sunday, February 9, 2014

Auroral Effects on Low Bands, Feb 8 and 9, 2014

DX on the low bands appears to have been impacted by auroral activity this weekend ( Feb 8-9 GMT 2014). While first hop skip in the lower latitudes resulted in usual very strong signals here in Central Texas, higher latitude stuff or signals that had paths through the higher latitudes but not normally affected by aurora were bothered.

I started by listening on the low bands Saturday morning February 8 Texas time ( 1100 GMT), hoping to hear some of the Japanese stations during their 160 meter contest, but heard nothing. There were very few signals at all and all from the Northeast US or Canada were very weak. Not much on 80 though there was some DX on 40.

During the day, the high bands showed good activity though signals were not exceptionally strong. US stations had some echo on them. Ten meters was open to Europe already right at sunrise. Amsterdam Island was in on 15 meters, though not strong.
The Dutch PACC contest was on and signals were all over the CW portions from there on the high bands including ten meters. Saturday night local ( Sunday morning GMT 0000-0200) showed not much happening on the low bands. Heard none of the PA stations in the contest at all on 160 and only a few US stations working a few. US stations were weaker than usual. On 80 meters, PA stations and Europe in general was below par signal strength wise. Many stations had a characteristic echo effect or lots of polar flutter, even signals that would travel lower latitude paths. Forty was a little better, but not much.  Sunday morning I checked  the Space Weather sites and saw that there was a big Coronal Mass Ejection on Thursday and that the Earth's magnetic field was shaken up a bit. Auroras did extend well south of their usual boundaries.

Here is how it went. At 1149 the only signal heard on 160 meters was AA1K calling CQ on 1820.6. Tuning up and down the band turned up nothing else. DX Summit did not show much, either.

Making my WWV run at 1152 I found this:

1152 2500 kHz WWV S-9+20 DB. No trace of WWVH
1153 5000 kHz WWV S-9+30 DB. WWVH just audible beneath
1154 10000 kHz WWV overridden by WWVH. Together they peaked at S-9 with very rapid QSB and flutter, maybe some echo. JJY unusually heard beneath.

Tuning 40 meters, things were pretty bleak. A lot of stateside stations were calling CQ DX with few if any takers. At 1210 GMT I heard UA0C on 7010 very weak. A few minutes later heard a JA1 but did not copy the entire call. Midwest and Northeast US stations were not their usual strength, though CO7EH from Camaguey, Cuba was a good S-9+ on 7011 at 1217 GMT. The Florida stations appeared normal signal strengths so it appeared signals from higher latitudes or passing through them were weaker or “ flutterized”.

A run up to 20 meters showed activity picking up because of the PACC ( Dutch) contest, though signals were not strong. There were a lot of Russian stations early with many of the Dutch stations participating in the contest weak and fluttery or with echo. Now this might have been due to them having directive beam antennas pointed toward Central or Eastern Europe to pickup strong first hop stuff, but then again, maybe not. The first heard was R1TV at 1303 on 14007 weak and fluttery with a 539 signal. I found PA7LV working a string on 14022 beginning at 1304. He was only about S-5 here with QSB. I heard in quick succession RW3XM, RA2FN,and RV3MJO working him, all with weak signals S-5 or less. The next few minutes saw several more Russians and an SM5 from Sweden in the log, but few signals from Southern Europe.

Interestingly, in the midst of all this, I found FT5ZM, the expedition on Amsterdam Island at 1318 on 14023 with a fair signal but not working much.

A jump up to 15 meters saw it open fairly early for here. At 1319 I heard PI4CC on 21007 working a string of stations fairly close to him. Among them were HB9CIC, LZ1ND and YO9HG, and one in the string that I am not sure of the location: RA0LQ maritime mobile. European stations gained in strength rapidly over the next little while and the noise was very low.

A little later in the morning after a break for breakfast and chores a check showed European signals very strong beginning about 1630 GMT, with US stations weak and fluttery with lots of echo. At 1636 a bit of a surprise with FT5ZM showing up on 21023 with a steady, albeit not very strong signal. Most strong signals from Europe were from the Central part of the continent. On 12 and 10 meters, there were many, many European stations coming in, though not with overwhelming strength.

This was the case most of the day through mid afternoon. The higher frequencies appeared to be enhanced somewhat by whatever solar activity there was. At 2109 W1AW/KH6 from Hawaii was heard on 28032.6 with a signal that reached a solid S-9 at times.

Whatever effects were wrought on the low bands were still in place Saturday evening, Sunday morning GMT. At 0121 K1GQ was only coming in 559 on 1822 and W9UK was just barely audible on 1811.8 at 0131. There were no Europeans at all coming in on 160, no sign of any Dutch signals in the PACC contest

Checking 80 meters, PI4DX which had huge signals on the higher bands earlier in the day wa only in at 569 on 3521 at 0140. PI4AX at 0143 was 559 on 3517 with rapid fading. One other signal of note was PI4COM heard on 3519.7 at 0145, but not very strong. Other European signals were just not standing out from the crowd. Those that were there exhibited a lot of rapid QSB that normally I am used to hearing on the higher bands.

A check of 40 meters showed higher latitude US stations lower in strength from normal and lower latitude signals strong and dominant. Russian signals were weak and fluttery. Most Dutch stations in the PACC were below par in strength with the exception of PI4DX who was 589 on 7016.8.
Equipment used for these observations were the Icom R-75 with assistance from the old, trusty Hammurland HQ-170 backing it up on 160 meters. The antenna was the sloper at 40 feet.

All of this falls in line with what I have noticed in the past during auroral activity that extends south of the usual areas. Observations of others during this period would be welcome to the “comments” section of this blog. If there is a lengthy observation you would like to share, include your e-mail address and I will send you mine. Your e-mail address will not show up on the blog. All comments are reviewed before posting. In fact, I am always interested in observations of others who might like to share them either with me or for posting here.

The one other observation from this weekend is that after over fifty years of tuning the bands there are still fun things to observe and always more to learn. Everything posted here is not represented as scientific fact, but rather as events as observed.

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