Friday, 27 May 2016

Updated UK HF prediction charts

I've now updated my hourly UK HF Propagation Predictions maps for the rest of 2016.

You can view the charts using the link on the right or at

These take into account the latest smoothed sunspot numbers from NOAA/NGDC.

We continue to see a steady decline in sunspot activity as we fall away from the peak of solar cycle 24. Twelve months ago the solar flux index peaked at 163 in May. This month it has struggled to exceed 100 and is currently 94.

Coupled with this, we have suffered quite badly from the effects of plasma from solar coronal holes. These are areas of the sun with an open magnetic field that allows plasma to escape.

If these coronal holes are earth-facing the result can be an elevated K index as the plasma from the high-speed solar wind stream impacts the earth, especially if it has a negative or south-facing magnetic field, which couples more easily.

A high K index is usually a sign of poor HF conditions, with noisy bands and depressed maximum usable frequencies. Any path over the poles is also badly affected.

This can also lead to aurora, which while not being visible in the summer, can lead to openings on VHF.

The RSGB Propagation Studies Committee is also pleased to be able to present its latest HF propagation prediction tool, which is currently hosted at

This is still being developed and uses the newer ITURHFPROP software as its backend, rather than VOACAP.

We encourage amateurs to use the system, which can also be used for point-to-point predictions using a prototype tool called 'Proppy'.

Gwyn G4FKH, who is project manager for the new system, welcomes feedback. The goal is for the whole system to be moved to the RSGB website once finished.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Sporadic E season is under way

The Sporadic E (Es) season on 10m and 6m is well under way with lots of useful openings.

I was having a listen around 28MHz today and was struck by how many 10m beacons are audible when there doesn't appear to be any other activity on the band.

And they aren't high powered either. First I heard OK0EG on 28.2825MHz in the Czech Republic and a little late OY6BEC in the Faroes on 28.235MHz. Then a little later still I spotted a spike on the IC-756 Pro3's panadapter and it was F5ZWE near Toulouse on 28.2427MHz.

You can get a current list of 10m beacons, complied by Martin G3USF, at:

These are all running 10-15W and simple antennas, yet can reach S6-9 in the UK when the conditions are right.

We still don't completely understand Sporadic E, although the current thinking is that it is due to wind shear in the upper atmosphere that pushes ions together into clumps or clouds. The ions may come from meteors. Jim G3YLA, who is a professional meteorologist, is also looking at whether these winds, when they pass over mountain ranges, are forced upwards and create these "gravity waves" that force the ions together.

I also have a theory that solar flares can contribute to SOME of the ionisation on occasions, but mainly outside of the May-August period - there are plenty of instances of Es without any flare activity. I have some plots of Es in late April that correlate very well with solar flares.

Anyway, Jim posts some daily high-level wind charts in an attempt to understand what is happening. 

Steve G0KYA