January brought us two expeditions that were challenging to work from North America. Laos was difficult from the eastern US, while the Maldive operation proved difficult from the west. This is because the northerly paths were darkened by the winter night. The best opportunities were found on long path, where signals propagate nicely across the Antarctic summer.
At sunspot peaks the nightpaths open back up on 20 during February, but we are not there yet. Fluxes are in the 80's to the low 100's, and this is enough to enhance nightpath conditions on 40 over the high latitudes. At sunspot minimum the MUF drops below 7MHz in the winter, closing the path to Europe. At current levels this path is usually open through the evening and we can follow the sunrise peak as it sweeps across Russia and Europe. We also have excellent 40 Meter openings to much of Asia at our own sunrise peak.
20 is at its best after sunrise and around sunset, with a nice path to Africa much of the afternoon. The path to Europe is open during the day, but this path is better at higher frequencies. Openings on 15 include much of Europe. These DX windows are of short duration, especially to the eastern regions. A more optimum band for daypath work into Europe and Asia is 17 Meters.
Seasonally, we can expect improvement on 15 over the next several months as daylight advances toward the north pole. We know that increasing solar flux levels will also help us, but currently they are not rising very fast. With enough solar activity 15 Meters is most awesome in late spring, but I don't think we will see these conditions this year.
Seasonal peaks on 10 always seem better in the fall than in the spring. Last fall we did have short openings to Europe and Japan, but conditions probably won't be any better this spring even if flux levels are slightly higher than in the fall.
20 should open up for nightpath work during April, and we should find much improved polar openings as the equinox approaches in March. For now, 40 will provide the best worldwide coverage at night. Windows to remote parts of the world will open on 20 in the morning and late afternoon along the grey line. For daypath work, watch 17 & 15. For a challenge, try 12 & 10.