ARRL

ARRL Propagation Bulletin ARLP051 (2007)

SB PROP @ ARL $ARLP051
ARLP051 Propagation de K7RA

ZCZC AP51
QST de W1AW  
Propagation Forecast Bulletin 51  ARLP051
From Tad Cook, K7RA
Seattle, WA  December 7, 2007
To all radio amateurs 

SB PROP ARL ARLP051
ARLP051 Propagation de K7RA

More sunspots emerged this week, with every December day so far
showing spots.  In addition to the sunspot numbers listed through
Wednesday at the end of this bulletin, Thursday, December 6 had a
sunspot number of 29.  The daily sunspot number has not been this
high since mid-July.  Two spots are now visible, 977 and 978, and
the total coverage of the solar surface by sunspots on Thursday is
four times Wednesday's coverage.  Average daily sunspot number for
this report is over twice last week's, rising from 5.4 to 11.1.
Sunspots will probably continue until at least December 13.

Geomagnetic numbers have been extremely low, with average daily
planetary A index dropping from 8.7 to 2, and average mid-latitude A
index declining from 6.3 to 1.1 for the week.  Check the quarterly
geomagnetic indices since October 1 at,
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ftpdir/indices/quar_DGD.txt, and note the
incredibly stable numbers, especially at high and mid-latitudes,
around December 2-6.  You don't see strings of zeroes such as this
during the higher portions of the solar cycle, and it seems
perfectly timed with last week's ARRL 160 meter contest.  Heightened
or unsettled to active geomagnetic conditions are not expected until
December 17.

Geophysical Institute Prague predicts quiet conditions December 7-9,
quiet to unsettled December 10, unsettled December 11-12, and quiet
to unsettled December 13.

This year we've been tracking a 3-month moving average of daily
sunspot numbers to help spot trends that may indicate the bottom of
the solar cycle.  Here are the 3-month averages since December 2005.

Dec 05 40.6
Jan 06 32.4
Feb 06 18.1
Mar 06 27.7
Apr 06 38.5
May 06 39.7
Jun 06 28.9
Jul 06 23.3
Aug 06 23.5
Sep 06 21.2
Oct 06 24.1
Nov 06 23.1
Dec 06 27.3
Jan 07 22.7
Feb 07 18.5
Mar 07 11.2
Apr 07 12.2
May 07 15.8
Jun 07 18.7
Jul 07 15.4
Aug 07 10.2
Sep 07  5.4
Oct 07  3

The average for September, October and November, centered on
October, at 3 is the lowest yet for this side of Cycle 23.  This
number was derived by adding all daily sunspot numbers for those
three months, then dividing the sum (270) by the number of days,
which is 91.  The result is approximately 2.967, very close to 3.

Monthly sunspot number averages for this year, January through
November, are 28.2, 17.3, 9.8, 6.9, 19.8, 20.7, 15.6, 9.9, 4.8, 1.3
and 2.9.  October's average of 1.3 is lower than September and
October of 1996, during the minimum between Cycles 22 and 23.  The
monthly averages for August through November, 1996 were 20.7, 2.9,
2.3 and 25.6.

A new table of predicted sunspot and solar flux values for Cycle 24
is in this week's Preliminary Report and Forecast of Geophysical
Data at, http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/weekly/ on pages 10-11, December 4
issue.  For the past few years the prediction table showed no data
beyond this month.  The table now runs an additional eight years,
through December 2015.

Note the two sets of predicted smoothed sunspot data, reflecting the
split consensus among members of the Cycle 24 prediction panel at
this year's Space Weather Workshop in Boulder, Colorado.  The late
decline in Cycle 23 led the group away from an earlier consensus for
a strong Cycle 24, and now the panel is split.  One faction predicts
moderately strong sunspot activity for Cycle 24, the other,
moderately weak.  You can see from the table of values that the
strong camp shows a peak centered near August-November 2011, while
the weak cycle faction predicts their peak to occur in May-October
2012.

To get an idea of the relative intensity of these predictions,
peruse a table of smoothed sunspot numbers at,
http://tinyurl.com/3yzcyz, showing over 3,000 months of smoothed
sunspot numbers back to July, 1749, nearly one-quarter millennia.
I'm not suggesting comparison of the predicted values with anything
further back than the past few cycles, but it is there if you need
it.

Another view of predicted values for this ending cycle and the next
one is at, http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ftpdir/weekly/Predict.txt,
updated monthly.  Another prediction, this time from the Australian
government is at, http://www.ips.gov.au/Solar/1/6.

Joe Reisert, W1JR of Amherst, New Hampshire sent an informative
email concerning "great polar openings on 80 and 40 meters to Europe
at our sunrise."

Joe continued, "Some ops may not be aware of this propagation mainly
to Scandinavia from Eastern and Central USA (perhaps even Western
USA). It has already started with LA6WEA and SM2EKM coming in
strong.  This path usually lasts through late January. This is the
time of year when the path is sort of gray line as the Northern
Europeans may not be in total darkness."  Joe says signals can be
quite strong, often have auroral flutter, and it doesn't take an
elaborate station to work them.

This weekend is the ARRL 10-Meter Contest, beginning 0000z Saturday,
December 8, ending 2359z Sunday.  See,
http://www.arrl.org/contests/rules/2007/10-meters.html for rules.
10 meters may not seem like a good bet at the bottom of the sunspot
cycle, but there have been surprising openings at times.  Mark
Madcharo, AB2IW of Schenectady, New York is up for the challenge,
and plans on drinking lots of coffee.

K0HZI, Jerry Weihrauch of South Saint Paul, Minnesota was one of
several who sent a link to an interesting composite of solar images
from SOHO, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, one representing
each year of the current solar cycle.  See it at
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap071203.html.  An image also
appears on http://monitor-post.blogspot.com/, a radio monitoring
blog by Larry Van Horn, N5FPW of Brasstown, North Carolina.  D.
Moore sent a link to an article about powerful X-ray jets observed
by the Hinode spacecraft.  Read it at,
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2007/06dec_xrayjets.htm.

The site http://www.qsonet.com/propadex/ is a link to a tool brought
to us by Doug McCormack, VE3EFC of Thunder Bay, Ontario.  Cormac
Propadex keeps track of f0F2, the highest frequency that can be
reflected from the ionosphere, at a U.S. Air Force observatory in
Italy.  f0F2 is observed with an ionosonde, or ionosphere sounder,
which beams RF straight up while sweeping upward in frequency, then
detecting the highest frequency reflected back.  When we estimate
MUF, or Maximum Usable Frequency, with a propagation program such as
W6ELprop, it is telling us the probable MUF between two points at
the ends of a radio communication path.  f0F2 measures the MUF for a
particular patch of sky over the observer, in this case in Italy.

Cormac Propadex keeps track of the average f0F2 value for every 15
minutes over a 60 day period, then displays the difference between
the current f0F2 and the average for that time of day.  When I first
looked at this, it displayed a value of +42, which translates to an
f0F2 420 kHz higher than the average for that time of day over the
past 60 days.  Currently at 0856z on Friday it reads -89, meaning
the f0F2 value is 890 kHz lower than average.  A value of +350 would
be for a current f0F2 value 3.5 MHz higher than the 60 day average.

Also check out Doug's web site at, http://ve3efc.ca/.

If you would like to make a comment or have a tip for our readers,
email the author at, k7ra@arrl.net.

For more information concerning radio propagation, see the ARRL
Technical Information Service at,
http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/propagation.html. For a detailed
explanation of the numbers used in this bulletin see,
http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/k9la-prop.html. An archive of past
propagation bulletins is at, http://www.arrl.org/w1aw/prop/. Monthly
propagation charts between four USA regions and twelve overseas
locations are at, http://www.arrl.org/qst/propcharts/.

Sunspot numbers for November 29 through December 5 were 0, 0, 13,
26, 13, 13 and 13 with a mean of 11.1.  10.7 cm flux was 71.2, 71.2,
71.9, 73, 72.6, 73.6, and 75.3 with a mean of 72.7.  Estimated
planetary A indices were 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2 and 2 with a mean of 2.
Estimated mid-latitude A indices were 2, 1, 2, 2, 0, 0 and 1, with a
mean of 1.1.
NNNN
/EX