The K7RA Solar Update
Both the average daily sunspot numbers and solar flux increased over the past week, with sunspot numbers up 7.4 points to 33.1, and solar flux up 2.1 points to 84.2. Four new sunspot groups have appeared since November 4. For some reason, NOAA is currently showing a sunspot number of 0 for Thursday, November 11, yet there are spots visible. In fact, the total sunspot area increased by 57 percent from November 10-11, and the sunspot number on November 10 was 55. On early Friday morning, the Space Weather Prediction Center shows the 0 sunspot number for yesterday, but perhaps by the time you read this, it will be corrected.
The latest forecast shows the predicted solar flux at 85 on November 12-13, 84 on November 14-15 and 83 on November 16-18. The predicted planetary index for November 12-21 is 10, 10, 8, 8, 7, 5, 5, 20, 15 and 10. Sunspot numbers for November 4-10 were 34, 29, 43, 34, 36, 35 and 55, with a mean of 33.1. The 10.7 cm flux was 79.2, 83, 88.6, 85, 83.7, 84.1 and 85.6, with a mean of 84.2. The estimated planetary A indices were 3, 2, 1, 1, 3, 3 and 4, with a mean of 2.4. The estimated mid-latitude A indices were 2, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1 and 3, with a mean of 1.7.
Last year, Steve Nichols, G0KYA, wrote the bulletin for us on October 30. He has just published a free online book -- Understanding LF and HF Propagation -- with G3NYK. You can download it from Steve’s blog.
Don Kalinowski, NJ2E, sent a link to a blog on the Aviation Week and Space Technology Web site about a new international initiative to work on space weather issues. You can read it here. There is a link in the article to a series from NASA explaining space weather. See it here.
We got mail about ARRL CW Sweepstakes last weekend. Don Lynch, W4ZYT, of Virginia Beach, Virginia wrote: “We operated from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and did well on 15-80 meters. We did not operate 160, and found 10 meters so unproductive that we made no contacts there. Fifteen was surprisingly good during the day, and more productive than I expected. I found all the bands were long -- I was working West Coast stations on 80 meters at 0600 UTC. On 40, I could easily work W6 and W7 and KH6 stations, but had trouble connecting with New England and Florida. Our group worked the VY1 as our first QSO and then missed the sweep because of Nebraska.”
Paul Mackanos, K2DB, wrote that he “started out on 40 and it was the best start we ever had at K2NNY. The band was great -- we ran 40 then went to 80 and had the same conditions -- GREAT. Everything went well, super rates -- until daylight on Sunday, then everything seemed to die down. We could never get anything going on Sunday. We just limped along; maybe we worked everyone over night on 80!”
Jim Jordan, K4QPL wrote that he “thought propagation was very ‘normal’ for the time of year, with 80 meters on the East Coast being better than average. This was my first time running QRP, so I was a bit more sensitive to ‘softness’ in propagation.
“80 meters -- No weird going long, as it sometimes does in winter, and as I heard happened earlier in the week. On the other hand, with the storms having moved out, interference was low, so weaker stations were not masked in noise. QRP was good for the entire East Coast and to the Rockies, and I got several ‘FB QRP SIG’ comments. My antenna is an inverted V with apex at about 60 feet. I had occasional QSOs with the West Coast, but generally with the stations known to have good antennas and ‘ears.’
“40 meters -- For some reason, 40 is never my best band despite it being a ‘money band’ for others. It performed about at par, with a bit more range into the west than 80 as the skip lengthened. But for sheer numbers, 80 still came in better for me.
“20 meters also performed pretty much as expected. Good transcontinental propagation helped me fill in Western and Canadian mults and S&P (search and pounce) the ones I couldn’t work on 80. It went long enough to also get KH6 and KL7 mults. It’s hard to hold a run frequency there except way high in the band.
“15 meters was surprisingly good and exhibited a lot of normal 20 meter characteristics. As I only have a tri-bander for 10-15-20, I sometimes put my second radio with a 40 meter dipole on 15 while running 20, and it seemed to do as well as the tri-bander, if not better, for S&P. Maybe the higher angle was getting more refraction in target areas when the band was perhaps actually longer. Fifteen also did well as a primary band for a short time, but it didn’t generate the same volume for me. I tried a couple runs with both antennas, but they didn’t seem to support QRP very well.
“10M -- I never went there. I flipped the Orion II to 10 every now and then on Sunday afternoon and could tell from the display nothing was happening.”
Ted Saba, KN5O, who operated W5RU wrote: “From W5-land near New Orleans, we found 80 meters to be in great shape. In fact, we made nearly as many Qs on 80 as we did on 40 (I use a 40 meter moxon at 86 feet and a phased pair of 1/4-wave verticals on 80). Eighty was good all over, very low interference. We may have benefited more by moving to 80 sooner than we did. Looking at the log, by the time we switched from 20 meters to 40, 40 had gone long. Normally we can work the close in sections -- NFL, WCF, SFL, ALA and sometimes MS and AR -- with relative ease. Not so this year -- the skip zone had to be a good 700+ miles from us. Twenty meters was its usual crowded self -- it is where we normally start and can run for about 3-4 hours, and we did so this year as usual. Fifteen meters is terrible for us. The first skip zone is about 1300+ miles, I would guess -- it’s only good for Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and a few Canadian provinces -- VY1, VY0, BC, AB and SK. Occasionally we would hear the far NE, but not consistently.”
Tim Prosser, KT8K wrote, “Twenty and 40 meters went long fairly early, but noise levels were fortunately fairly low on 80 meters at my location in Southeast Michigan -- about S7 on my Orion. My K9AY loop (with new termination resistor) did a fantastic job of reducing that to S1, while signals only dropped to S5-7 -- much easier on the ears. Propagation on 40 meters was a bit spotty, and was better as always while I was in the gray line zone. Eighty meters was great and I got great signal reports from my 5 W and wires in the trees as far away as Hawaii and Los Angeles.”
Connie Marshall, K5CM wrote that “conditions were good in general, but better the first day. Being in the center of the USA has both advantage and disadvantages. It’s an advantage on 80 meters where conditions were very good Saturday night (the largest number of Qs came on 80 with 538), but it’s a disadvantage on 15 meters, where skip was just too long to work anything but the very edges of the East and West Coasts and mainly just the West. I was hoping for a little Es to help propagation on 15 and 10 meters, but no luck this year. It’s still a little early for the winter time Es season, which as you know, usually peaks in December and January. Forty meters was good, with East Coast stations being heard in the middle of the day. We probably should have spent more time on 40. Twenty meter propagation was good but very crowded, especially at the beginning of the contest. We still had a good contest, setting a new Multi-op CW SS record for Oklahoma.”
Bob Norin, W7YAQ, wrote: “I had not been on the air for two months preceding the SS, but I managed to put in the full 24 hours in the CW SS. Running QRP and having a 3-el Steppir for 20-10, I was hoping for a nice 10 meter opening and evening openings on 20. QRP on the low bands is not always a lot of fun. Here are my observations by band:
“10 meters (3-el Steppir at 70 feet): We had an opening Sunday morning from Central Oregon to the East Coast. Signals were very good, but there just wasn't much activity. Between 1724 and 1814 UTC, I worked 11 stations in MAR, QC, ON, ENY, WNY, MDC, EPA, VA, TN and GA.
“15 meters (3-el Steppir at 70 feet): Generally good conditions, better than 2009 and 2008.
“20 meters (3-el Steppir at 70 feet): Band closed at sunset both days. No short skip to BC/AB/WA/CA/ID/MT/NV this year.
“40 meters (Steppir trombone dipole at 70 feet): Good conditions Saturday evening, but it seemed to close shortly after sunset Sunday.Maybe everybody just went to 80.
“80 meters (inverted V at 65 feet): Seemed in great shape with signals booming in from all over North America. I made some East Coast QSOs late Saturday night. Running QRP, however, I would prefer the loud signals to only be from the Western North America, as I can distinguish which ones I can work better. If I were running 100 W, I would have loved 80 this weekend! I have operated the last 3 SS contests QRP and with same antennas.”
Stu Mitchell, W7IY, of Stafford, Virginia wrote that he “operated unassisted QRP from Virginia again this year at W4NF’s station. The bands seemed in pretty good shape and matched the VOACAP predictions. I started on 20 meters and had no problem working California, Washington and Oregon, although 20 seemed pretty quiet before the contest. It was hard to tell if the solar activity was the culprit or people were just getting in a last minute nap. The band closed around night fall, so I moved to 40. Nothing unusual there, but it seemed like there were fewer people to work. The band was quiet with no fading signals.
“During the evening, I spent the vast majority of my time on 80, routinely checking 40. Hawaii (0600 on 40 meters) appeared on time and was easy to work. No interference or fading signals on both bands. If a station was over S5, I was able to work them without any problem at all. I was able to run several times with good results. I experienced the typical doldrums during the day on the higher bands: 15 meters opened for a bit to Texas, New Mexico and California. My first 15 meter QSO was at 1542 and my last was at 1755. I worked Alaska at 1700 on 15 meters. No fading signals on either 15 or 20. Ten meters never opened for me.
“Through the second diurnal shift, I made my way back to 80 meters through 40. That band seemed much quieter during the last few hours of the contest, although I kept sweeping the band with my second radio looking for Idaho. Finally, at 0139, I came across K0TO on 80 and completed Worked All States. I didn't get a clean sweep, missing Manitoba, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories. I heard Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, but the pileups were too big for my QRP station.”
Tim Kresky, AB0S, wrote: “From Kansas, 20, 40 and 80 meters were good, with very little noise on the low bands. Ten meters was dead, but 15 had some activity, but not enough for us to spend any useful time there. I suspect the skip was such on 15 that the coasts had a great time talking to each other, but it was just a little too long for us to hear most stations.”
All times listed are UTC, unless otherwise noted.
Amateur solar observer Tad Cook, K7RA, of Seattle, Washington, provides this weekly report on solar conditions and propagation. This report also is available via W1AW every Friday, and an abbreviated version appears each Thursday in The ARRL Letter. You can find a guide to articles and programs concerning propagation here. Check here for a detailed explanation of the numbers used in this bulletin. An archive of past propagation bulletins can be found here. You can find monthly propagation charts between four USA regions and 12 overseas locations here. Readers may contact the author via e-mail.