Thursday 17 August 2023

Magic Band Summer Season

This summer’s Sporadic-E season has pretty much wound-down once again. As E seasons go, this one ranked right up there with the worst of them but this comes with some provisos.

Over the past several years, my only interest has focused on Europe and Asia, looking for any DXCC entities that I have not yet worked and I tend to ignore most domestic openings unless the MUF appears to be climbing into the range of 2m.

There were several openings from here in British Columbia to most regions of the US and Canada, so many would likely disagree that it was a poorer season than normal!

Unlike last year when we had several good days to Europe over a two-week period, this year’s fireworks were pretty much confined to June 12, when the somewhat unstable polar-path to Europe jumped from country to country for several hours. In spite of making 62 contacts to Europe, only one new country was worked when 9H1TX in Malta replied to one of my CQs! Other than him, there were no other signals being heard at the time but after our QSO, his fellow countryman, 9H1LO, also appeared ... so it was exciting to find two rare 9H1s in the 6m log! For about 4 minutes, the only two signals in my FT8 waterfall were both CQers from Malta! Note the power and antenna being used by 9H1LO ... it doesn't take much when the magic appears, albeit momentarily.

Last summer’s E season was not as heavily influenced by the active Sun, unlike this summer’s constant stream of solar flares keeping the polar regions anything but calm and quiet … a seeming requirement for good transpolar Es on 50MHz from the west coast.
Last year produced 8 new DXCC entities and in most cases, like this year, signals were strong enough for CW but almost all DX prefers the few db advantage offered by the FT8 mode. Exchanges can be made MUCH more quickly on CW than the snail-pace of FT8. The addition of 9H1 brings my 6m DXCC confirmed total to 109.

If Cycle 25 continues to grow as it has been (in small spurts), it’s difficult to predict if there will be any long haul F2 propagation in the late fall or not. In previous cycles we’ve needed to see some steady flux values in the 200 or higher range for several days in a row … at least for us here in VE7 land.
If the high F2 MUF does indeed manage to manifest itself, we should expect to see early morning openings to the New England / NY regions with blowtorch signal levels before seeing the path crawl down the eastern seaboard then possibly into the Caribbean and South America. Later in the afternoon, expect signals from Japan and the far East for several hours up until sunset, once again at bone-crushing signal levels. There are few things in ham radio more exciting than experiencing 6m F2 and hearing the level of signal strengths that can be reached when operating near the edge of the MUF.
If not this fall then hopefully in 2024 for sure … but as of now, it’s anyone’s guess as to if or when the rare winter magic will appear once again!