Fall 2009 Issue

Review of 6-meter Sporadic-E Activity During Summer 2009

Were you on 6 meters this past summer?
If you were, you enjoyed propagation rated to
be the best in years. In this article WB2AMU reviews some of this summer’s 6-meter
plethora of propagation events.

By Ken Neubeck, WB2AMU

Figure 1. Approximate locations of sporadic-E formations, June 26, 2009 (2040 to 2100 UTC). Note that sporadic-E formations are in pink.

As suggested in my previous article in the Summer 2009 issue of CQ VHF, I had a feeling that for North American stations the summer of 2009 might be something special in comparison to previous years. This feeling was based on the fact that the sunspot cycle was at its prolonged lowest point for quite a while.

Sporadic-E activity has always been known to have its nuances, especially with regard to location of the individual formations that can line up for the possibility of long-range contacts. Thus, in looking at the summer of 2009, it could be considered as a less than average season for transatlantic QSOs between the U.S. and Europe on 6 meters. However, QSOs in other directions were made in significant quantity.

For moderately powered stations with directional antennas, it was quite effective to call CQ on 6 meters, particularly when the low-power beacons were being heard with good signal strength. Calling CQ in the CW portion of the band when the beacons were coming in and not many stations were on the air proved to be a good strategy for me and others in “opening up the band.” A lot of stations were listening on the band and not transmitting. They came out of the woodwork when they heard a fairly strong CQ. I was getting responses from western states via double hop during some openings when initially I only heard the single-hop sporadic-E skip beacons.

It seems to me that in the 15 years that I have been on 6 meters, on average an active 6-meter operator in the U.S. may see one or two “major” sporadic-E events during any particular summer season. Some years the events may actually develop further into 2-meter openings. However, in many cases these “major” events may take the form of multiple-hop situations that last for several hours.

In general, a major event can occur at any time between May 1st and August 15th, the time period for the sporadic-E summer season in the Northern Hemisphere. Statistically, the odds are especially high for such an event to occur sometime within the last ten days of June or within the first ten days of July, near the peak of the summer solstice. August 1, 2008 was an oddity for me in that I worked into Europe on 6 meters CW during the day, with two new countries for me, Morocco (CN) and the Balearic Islands (EA6).

Also, a major sporadic-E event may favor one region of the U.S. more than another, a situation that is more the luck of the draw during any given summer season. For example, on June 25, 1994 the Saturday of Field Day weekend, Damon Morrison, KJ4E, in Sanford, Florida, experienced a long-duration multiple-hop sporadic-E opening into much of western Europe. Beginning with I4XCC in Italy worked at noon time local time, Damon proceeded to work over 100 stations on 6 meters CW that covered 21 European and North African countries. The opening lasted for over five hours, the last QSO being with EH1YV in Spain at 6:30 PM local time in Florida. QSO rates averaged about 25 an hour, with the 2 to 3 PM time period netting 30 QSOs for Damon.

During the same time period, from my location on Long Island, New York, I was only able to hear some of this opening and was able to work CU1EZ in the Azores. but signals were very weak. It appeared that I was at the fringe location for this opening and that stations in the Florida area were in the “sweet spot” of this event.

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