Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Don't Miss Your Chance with Summer E Skip and FT8

Post date: Aug 15, 2019 9:5:25 PM

Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Don’t Miss Your Chance with Summer E Skip and FT8.

Anthony Luscre, K8ZT

You may have heard the doom and gloom about being in the depths of the 11 Year Sunspot Cycle:

    • “No propagation above 20 Meters”

    • “Ten is dead!”

    • “Might as well sell the radio”

    • “The sun will never return”

    • “It’s 80 & 160 Meters only for the next few years”

    • “#$@&%*!”

Well, the idea to concentrate on 160 and 80 Meters is a good idea, but not until late fall or winter. In the meantime, there is a way to make contacts on 6, 10 or 12 Meters most days of the week by taking advantage of the summer enhanced E Skip season and the new mode of FT8.

Typically during high sunspot activity (solar flux) ionization of the F layer of the atmosphere facilitates refraction of signals on higher HF bands allowing worldwide communications. The E layer is below the F layer and is responsible for a propagation type known to abnormally effect VHF and higher HF frequencies called Sporadic E or E skip. This happens went ionized particles appear in the E layer of the ionosphere. Sporadic E as the name implies occurs sporadically throughout the year and is not dependent on 11-year sunspot cycle. In the Northern hemisphere, sporadic E activities are more frequent during the summer months.

The lower height of the E layer results in shorter skips than the F layer. During sporadic E events, the E layer becomes heavily ionized in specific small thin areas, sometimes called clouds. This can last a few minutes or up to several hours. The effect is normally more pronounced with lower frequencies. The short duration of this type of propagation can mean openings can easily be missed so frequent monitoring of bands is important. Fortunately, in this internet age, there are, of course, websites that can predict or at least define sporadic E, DXMaps.com has maps similar to the one below.

Another good way to monitor activity, especially with FT8 contacts is PSK Reporter.

Speaking of FT8, it is a great way to maximize your number of contacts during the sometimes marginal propagation characteristics of Sporadic E. For information on FT8 visit www.k8zt.com/digital. Sporadic E is available for all license classes as Technicians have privileges for all modes on 6 Meters and voice and CW on 10 Meters (FT8 is not yet included for Techs on 10 M).

In addition to PSK Reporter, visit www.k8zt.com/propagation for other Propagation and Spotting Resources.

The table below shows contacts made at K8ZT during the months of May 2018 to July of 2019 with a power output of 5 watts. The antenna was a 3 element beam at 50 feet.