The spring equinox is approaching, and the grey line is aligning itself directly over the pole. Both hemispheres are getting equal amounts of sunlight, with a corresponding balance in MUF's between north and south. Maximum imbalance occurs at the extremes of summer and winter. Polar paths in winter are closed on the high bands for lack of sunlight, while at the opposite pole they are overexposed. In either case, high band DXing is not in peak season. Equinox time is good for DX. This is the best season for working into the southern hemisphere on low bands, since summer QRN levels keep activity down during our winter. Interest in operating low bands is never very high in South America.
Night time propagation is returning to 20, and the band is usually open at least marginally through the night. These conditions will continue to improve, and we will soon have our evening pipeline into Europe and Russia (my favorite path during contests). This is also a good season for 20 long path, since the Antarctic routes are in great shape. One path that is often overlooked on 20 is the afternoon path to the Far East. This usually means contacts with Japan, but propagation is excellent to many rare and exotic countries.
One of these is Spratly, which is due to activate on March 11th as 9M0S. The stated purpose of the operation is to concentrate on working into the USA by exploiting all propagation windows, especially long path. This was the major shortcoming of the last operation, and is a characteristic common to all expeditions by Romeo (e.g. 1S, YA & XZ). He seems to prefer 10 and 15 Meters, where polar routes are difficult, and routinely misses the daily pipelines into the states on 20. If you still need Spratly, your best shot will be on 20 in late afternoon - long path. Operators will include OH2BH and AA6TT.
Due to the lower flux numbers, conditions on 10 & 15 are sharply off. Polar openings on 15 are shorter and less common, and are impossible on 10. During the recent ARRL CW contest, much of the western US (including Colorado) NEVER got a 10 Meter opening into Europe (except skew path). The east coast also seemed effected by the lower fluxes, as W3LPL only reported 573 contacts on 10. This suggests that they never got a direct path into Japan. Overall, any deterioration of solar conditions, whether from lower flux numbers or disturbed conditions, will exaggerate the advantage the east coast has during contests. This is what we have to look forward to in coming years as sunspot activity drops.