The K7RA Solar Update
Average daily sunspot numbers and solar flux both increased over the past week. Average daily solar flux went from 92.9 to 96.8, and average daily sunspot number from 41.4 to 64.4. Geomagnetic indicators increased, with the most activity on March 6 and 7.
On March 6-7 the planetary A index was 35 and 24. According to Spaceweather.com, this was caused by a CIR. On March 4 they wrote, “NOAA forecasters estimate a 50-percent chance of polar geomagnetic storms on March 6th when a co-rotating interaction region (CIR) is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. CIRs are transition zones between fast and slow-moving solar wind streams. Solar wind plasma piles up in these regions, producing density gradients and shock waves that do a good job of sparking auroras.”
Spaceweather.com also mentioned that the spring equinox (Sunday, March 20 at 0430 UTC) is a time for enhanced aurora activity. The weeks around equinoxes (both autumnal and vernal) are a time of increased aurora borealis. Six meter operators will want to be alert.
On March 6 Spaceweather.com reported a G-2 Class geomagnetic storm. (Go to http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/noaa-scales-explanation and click on the Geomagnetic Storms tab for details). G-2 signals a moderate geomagnetic storm, and typically “HF radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes, and aurora has been seen as low as New York and Idaho.”
Predicted solar flux is 95 on March 11-13, 90 on March 14-17, 95 on March 18-20, 90 on March 21-23, and 95 on March 24-30. Solar flux then continues to meander between 90 and 95 for the remained of the 45 day forecast.
Predicted planetary A index is 5 and 10, on March 11-12, 8 on March 13-14, 5 on March 15, 30 and 24 on March 16-17, 25 on March 18-19, 12 on March 20, then 5 on March 21 through April 2, then 22, 10 and 8 on April 3-5 and 5 on April 6-7. The planetary A index then increases to 25 again on April 13-15.
F.K. Janda, OK1HH, expects geomagnetic conditions to be quiet to unsettled March 11-12, quiet to active March 13, active to disturbed on March 14-16 (although the March 15-16 period is less likely), quiet to active March 17, mostly quiet March 18-19, quiet on March 20-21, mostly quiet March 22, quiet again on March 23, mostly quiet March 24, quiet in March 25-27, quiet to active March 28, quiet to unsettled March 29-30, mostly quiet March 31, quiet on April 1-2, active to disturbed April 3-4, quiet to active April 5 and mostly quiet April 6.
OK1HH expects increases in solar wind on March 14-17 and again on March 30 to April 4, but the outlook for increased solar wind is less certain for March 30-31.
On March 8, Dr. Jon Jones, N0JK (editor, The World Above 50 MHz in QST), of Lawrence, Kansas wrote: “Did not expect a lot on 10 meters Sunday morning of the ARRL DX SSB contest with solar flux around 100. But conditions were remarkable in eastern Kansas.
“Starting at 1707z with EI4KF, worked scads of Europeans. Many eastern Europeans were loud, along with Africa. The best DX was FH/IK5ZUI and ES5Q. 5D3A and HB9AUS were 20 over S9. I was ‘fixed mobile’ on a hill top just west of Lawrence, antenna a 1/4 wave whip for 10 meters with a MFJ tri-magnet mount on the roof of the car.”
KC0DEB, also in Kansas, noted "It was pretty neat to see how propagation moved on 10 meters, from North Africa through Central and Eastern Europe to the Baltic's and back down again to Southern France and Spain. Not all signals were strong, but the majority were Q5. 9A1A (Croatia) was one of the loudest ones I heard here from EU on 10m though. I think it was Paul N4PN behind the mic, pegging the S meter at 9+40db! Unbelievable!
“Around 1800z I noted aurora polar flutter on SK3W and ES5Q and considerable QSB on many Europeans. HB9AUS was solid and very loud. There was a geomagnetic storm in progress at this time, with the Kp peaking at 7.”
On March 10, Jeff Hartley, N8II of Shepherdstown, West Virginia wrote: “Well today was a great example of conditions falling well short of the solar indices. All day long, the MUF on northern hemisphere paths were low, especially into Europe, and polar paths/northern Europe were almost closed. I heard nothing on 10 meters except for South America. There were ‘no storms’ present or forecast all day from WWV and the solar flux was pretty steady at 95 down from 97 on Wednesday. Other stations I worked agreed that conditions were poor as well. Fifteen meters seemed completely closed to Europe at 1815Z vs. Ten meters open well at same time Sunday.
“Friday evening sounded very good on all bands. I was on 15 meters and then began working my way down to 75 meters by 0245Z before signing off around 0320Z. Signals from Japan were good on 15 meters at the start, along with one booming Alaskan, a few Hawaiians and several South Americans. Twenty meters was open to all of Europe except Russia, along with very loud signals from the northern Caribbean down into South America. Some zone 18/19 Asiatic Russians and Alaskans were loud as well. Forty meters was wide open to Europe at 0130Z and I also worked the United Arab Emirates. European signals were good on 75 meters, but precipitation static crashes were fairly high.
“Sunday was an excellent example of wonderful conditions that were actually enhanced by an impending G3 level storm. At 1513Z, I finally returned to the radio to find 10 meters open well to Europe, working two Swedish stations in about the first 8 QSOs. I had a nice run of European callers for about a half hour until signals weakened from most of the continent except Ireland, Italy, and the Balkans. Most signals were quite strong, including calls from Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Finland, Poland, Macedonia, and Kaliningrad.
“Following that, my run conditions turned quite strange on 10 meters with very weak Spanish, German, and French stations obviously hearing very loud signals from the Midwest from and even the West Coast!
“Irish and some British stations were still quite loud in the 1600Z hour. The K index was 5 by 1800Z and 6 before the end of the contest. Around 1730Z, conditions on 10 meters improved with loud signals from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Latvia as well as signals from France and Italy. A St Petersburg station called me at 1811Z for first Russian of the day. Most signals from northern Europe did not have flutter, but some from southwest Europe did.
“After a break, returning at 1950Z, signals were loud from Spain and Portugal well into their evening and signals from even as close as Cuba were loud from the south with only moderate signals from Brazil/Argentina due to the high MUF to the south. Sunday was quite a celebration of 10 meters, a last gasp probably until the next cycle. Fifteen meters was excellent to all of Europe as well.”
We haven’t heard from Martin McCormick, WB5AGZ, in Stillwater, Oklahoma in a very long time. But he contributed this on March 7:
“Ten meters still has a bit of life left in it but the vital signs are becoming less frequent.
“I have taken to leaving an FM receiver on 29.6 MHZ and recording its output to catch anything interesting from a discone antenna up about 50 feet.
“It does occasionally spring to life for very brief periods, but nothing like it was during past solar cycles or even in the winter of 2014.
“I live in almost the exact center of the contiguous United States and Winter F2 usually brings us signals from the extreme northeast down to about New Jersey, plus the extreme Northwest from roughly Canada to Central California. One also hears the extreme Southeast, mostly Florida and the Caribbean, plus far southwest as in Hawaii and the South Pacific.
“If the F2 really gets going, the skip zone gets a bit larger and we start hearing further inland all around, but openings have been sparse this F2 season. The last two weeks have been a pretty good example -- mostly dead except for some openings on the low end of ten meters and a couple of surprises.
“On Friday February 19, I began hearing a station in the first call district calling CQ on 29.6 between 0900 and 1000 or so (local, 1500-1600 UTC) with fades from nothing to almost full quieting and then it all died away.
“On Sunday, March 6, I had forgotten the receiver was even on and then, at about 1600 Central time, I heard a brief burst of carrier which I first thought was a local station until there was another burst of carrier which was long enough to fade a bit. I next heard an unidentified station, which faded in and out with what sounded like possibly an Australian accent, but I never got the call sign.
“Other partial QSOs were audible, and then a pipeline suddenly open with KH6RC on the big island of Hawaii talking to a station in Santa Rosa, California, which I could never hear from here. The Hawaiian station ranged from almost full quieting to a closed squelch, but was what I would call a good copy.
“A few minutes later, it all vanished at around 1700 Central time, which is UTC-6 (2300 UTC). This is pretty typical of 10 meters when conditions are marginal.
“F2 is only going to generally get worse as the solar activity declines, but in two more months, the Northern Hemisphere will be in Summer Sporadic E season and that can open up at any time of the day or night with lots of skip in the 400-800 mile range and cover frequencies from 10 meters through 6, and sometimes even two meters and 222-225 MHZ.
“They don't call it Sporadic E for nothing. The VHF bands can be as dead as a doornail one minute and then booming with signals the next. Of course the next minute after that it may be back to dead again so one must strike while the iron is hot!”
Here we go again with another scary story on the infamous and truly frightening nineteenth century Carrington Event, this time from regular contributor David Moore. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2938/1#.Vt9KXkkKgmY
NOAA says (on March 11, 2016) that there is a less than 1-percent chance of solar flares today. There are sunspots all over the earth-facing solar image, but with solar activity remaining low, there seems to be little chance of any aurora or geomagnetic activity.
Steve Shorey wrote: “I’m sure all those on the air noticed that HF conditions improved spectacularly over the weekend of March 5 and 6 - FoF2 over 9 MHz in Europe and 10 meters open to the West Coast of the US from UK. I’m sure the contesters were happy!
“The Sunday improvement was just before the arrival of the predicted geomagnetic storm that triggered a G2 class storm and visible auroras. I have noticed on more than occasion in the last year that HF (and sometimes up to 6 meters) propagation improves markedly just before the storms arrive.
“Of course, the immediate aftermath is poor conditions for a few days (FoF2 way down on Monday). Is there any known correlation between the sudden uptick in HF conditions just prior to a geomagnetic disturbance? For example, is the F2 intensely ionized by some mechanism just a few hours before?”
My response: “I suspect what was happening is outlined in this piece by K9LA: http://k9la.us/Positive_Electron_Density_Enhancements_Due_to_Geomagnetic_Field_Activity.pdf
“The STORM model he references has moved to: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/storm-time-empirical-ionospheric-correction
“I will cc K9LA and see what he thinks.”
For more information concerning radio propagation, see the ARRL Technical Information Service at http://arrl.org/propagation-of-rf-signals. For an explanation of the numbers used in this bulletin, see http://arrl.org/the-sun-the-earth-the-ionosphere. An archive of past propagation bulletins is at http://arrl.org/w1aw-bulletins-archive-propagation. More good information and tutorials on propagation are at http://k9la.us/.
My own archives of the NOAA/USAF daily 45 day forecast for solar flux and planetary A index are in downloadable spreadsheet format at http://bit.ly/1VOqf9B and http://bit.ly/1DcpaC5 .
Click on “Download this file” to download the archive, and ignore the security warning about file format. Pop-up blockers may suppress the download.
Monthly propagation charts between four USA regions and twelve overseas locations are at http://arrl.org/propagation.
Instructions for starting or ending email distribution of ARRL bulletins are at http://arrl.org/bulletins.
Sunspot numbers for March 3 through 9 were 50, 95, 68, 68, 61, 48, and 61, with a mean of 64.4. 10.7 cm flux was 98.7, 100.5, 96.2, 95.5, 94.1, 95.5, and 97.4, with a mean of 96.8. Estimated planetary A indices were 8, 4, 4, 35, 24, 8, and 7, with a mean of 12.9. Estimated mid-latitude A indices were 7, 2, 3, 19, 17, 6, and 6, with a mean of 8.6.