March 1996 Forecast -- Flux Range 67 - 74

by Roy, AD5Q - Houston, Texas

The equinox approaches, and nighttime MUF's are on the rise. With low levels of solar activity, we cannot expect nightpath conditions to return to 20 until April. This means we will continue to spend our evening hours DXing on the low bands. Propagation is still very good, but noise levels are up (at least here in the southern US.)

Conditions on 15 Meters have been marginal, even on the path from the East Coast to Europe. This is reflected in the contests scores of the recent ARRL DX tests. The "money band" has been 20, and even here reports from the western US showed mostly disappointment. For every day DXing, 20 is good for daytime work. The window to Europe has a peak of about 3 hours in the morning, and the opening to Asia closes about an hour after our sunset. EU sigs are stronger into the East Coast, and more of the weak stations are copyable. This makes the DX window much wider from there - a major factor in competitive events like contesting. Daytime noise levels are higher than a month ago.

Though nightpaths aren't going to open 20 Meters to Russia for another month, the grey line is aligning itself over the pole. This should bring us some good (but narrow) pipelines to hard to reach areas in Asia on both 20 and 40. The best European opening on 40 occurs before sunset here in W5. There are more signals coming through on this opening than at the EU sunrise peak around our midnight.

The most interesting propagation story for this month concerns the recent lowband activity from VK9X and VK9C - both southwest of Indonesia on long haul paths. The crew for these operations did an excellent job of working both the short path and long path openings into North America. Contacts were readily available on 40 long path and on the 30 Meter WARC band. The 80 Meter openings were narrower and along the grey lines. They worked into the West Coast at their sunset and to the East Coast via long path at their sunrise. 160 Meter contacts to North America were also made.

With low solar flux levels, the lowband season will be extended past the equinox. We can expect an increase in activity from the southern hemisphere during this period. Those with high performance antenna systems on 80 might try to exploit the difficult polar paths with the help of grey line propagation. The rest of us can look forward to improving conditions on 20 for the next several months.

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