20 Meters is opening slowly for propagation across nighttime paths. Solar fluxes are usually in the 80's and 90's, and sometimes dip into the 70's. For most of the past month, geomagnetic conditions were disturbed. March wasn't a good month for reliable DXing, and disturbed conditions may continue for another month. This column does not offer predictions of solar conditions.
Through the bottom area of the sunspot cycle, April and May bring out the best DX conditions on 20 Meters. The sun hangs low in the sky over polar regions, opening pipelines into Russia and Asia. Nighttime MUF's are higher throughout the northern hemisphere, providing DXing opportunities well past midnight to some parts of the world - especially west. As the pole tilts more toward the sun, the high latitude path to Europe will open for evening work and things will get crowded. This should happen during April, but for now, much DX activity remains on the low bands.
This seasonal peak in 20 meter propagation becomes more important at the bottom of the cycle, because remote parts of the world (especially southern Asia) become difficult to work on many bands. The 20 meter polar window in late spring is a welcome change. This year we should have several months of good evening conditions on 20.
This is also the time of year when 15 starts going crazy at the top of the cycle - staying open all night with nearly constant propagation to Asia and Europe. Not this year! 15 should be used for daypath work, and is still reliable to most of the world - on the same paths that used to open on 10. As the cycle declines further, DX openings on 15 will shorten and become marginal. Daytime MUF's will not be high enough to open a good path to Europe. The 17 meter WARC band will likely emerge as the daypath alternative at sunspot bottom, with reliable openings throughout most of the year. A yagi for this band would be a nice project.
There is increasing activity on the 30 meter WARC band, which closed in the evening during winter. This band is limited in several ways: No SSB, No DXCC credit, No QRO (unenforceable). Still, plenty of choice DX shows on this band and pileups are surprisingly competitive.
With the late seasonal opening of 20 Meters this year, the lowband season is extended. DX contacts continue to be made on 80, with plenty of activity on 40. Much of the activity should move to 20 during April, but propagation on 40 will remain good.