This fall has given some neglected HF bands a wake up call. The seasonal peak in high band activity has coincided with a sharp increase in solar activity to produce a 15 Meter season beyond anyone's expectations. The band was well populated with DXers trying out paths that have been closed for some time. From W5, most of Europe was coming through nicely with occasional openings to parts of Russia. The east coast undoubtedly got a better path to Russia with less Japan. The CQWW fone contest was marred by geomagnetic storminess, but many reported respectable QSO totals on 15.
The waters on 10 Meters were also tested, and openings to both Europe and Asia were found. With flux levels at times higher than 120, these openings were sometimes pretty good (though brief).
Winter approaches, however, and the polar night is advancing over the high latitudes. The fall DX season is therefore past its peak, and we should not expect this new solar activity to keep the bands open the way they have been this fall. We are in the early stages of the new cycle. The recent sharp rise in flux levels from near bottom levels was almost unprecedented and likely anomalous, and continued improvement at these rates should not be expected (even though possible). I expect deteriorating conditions now through January on 10 and 15, with hope for a nice comeback in spring '98. Next fall season, the big news will be 10 Meters.
A moderate increase in flux levels is very significant for 20 Meter nightpath propagation. Evening DX openings will be better than last year, and morning daypath openings to Europe will be longer. This winter the band will still close at night, but it is summer in the southern hemisphere where the nightpaths will be wide open. Expect dramatic improvement in long path propagation across the Antarctic. From W5, find southern Asia, the Middle East, N.E. Africa, Russia and Europe in the morning; and Indonesia, S.E. Asia, and Japan around our sunset. Short path openings can also occur at these times.
It is too early to expect an end to the great lowband conditions of recent years. Many have put up effective antennas and will continue to use them, providing lots of activity through the winter months. Evening conditions on 40 will likely improve over last year due to higher nighttime MUF's.