Thursday, August 30, 2018

2 Years of Monitoring FM Broadcast Es to Prepare for 2-Meter Band Openings

After my first full-time year (2017) doing this activity, it was so much fun I decided to continue it for 2018.
During the late Winter and early Spring of 2018, I decided it was time to retire my 44-year old. trusty, reliable and somewhat bent up Radio Shack (Archer) VUF-125 Log-Periodic with sawed off UHF elements. In the early spring, a major vendor of TV/FM/Cable equipment put on sale a long-range, light-weight VHF/FMBC/UHF antenna for an almost too good to be true price.  So, I bought one.

From Solid Signal: HD8200XL. Cushcraft 2M/70CM Yagi and Ringo Ranger 2 above it.

Since its predecessor was for VHF only, I quickly learned after putting it up that the feedline (RG59) needed to be replaced.  The feed-line had been used for cable runs and had been in the attic for probably at least 20 years. The antenna wasn’t picking up UHF channels very well, so a new run of RG6 replaced it. Much better.

For this 2-Year analysis in 2017, I captured 81 FM Broadcast stations during the Spring/Summer Es Season (April 26 – August 16, 8 weeks prior to & after the Summer Solstice).  For the same period in 2018, I captured 108 stations. A little experience, no 2-Meter Es openings and the change in antenna and feed line helped my 2018 results.

Operating practices and procedures:
  1. My receiver was a RTL-SDR USB connected to a Windows 7 Dell Optiplex Desktop (exception 2 captures in 2018 from the car)
  2. No recording was done with the RTL-SDR (issues and not reliable).
  3. If Ham bands (10, 6 and/or 2-Meters) were experiencing excellent conditions, focus was on them, not FMBC. For the most part, if Es were occurring I tried to monitor FMBC.
  4. I made the mistake of using the same computer for the RTL-SDR and an interface to one my Ham Radio rigs. I could not operate both at the same time. I will not do that next year.
  5.  All stations captured were identified by full call letters, reference to location, slogans, local oriented commercials, RDS and/or PiCodes (Radio Broadcast Data System Program Identification Codes).
  6. Resources used were an April 2018 FCC Database downloaded, filtered and modified from an Excel spreadsheet developed by Bob Colyard (founder of DXWorld that passed away last Spring), the Searchable Online Directory provided by Worldwide TV FM DX Association, FM Fool and
  7. MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) measurements from the G7RAU Website or his rauMUF software, in addition to SE-PROP by K9SE.
Purpose of the Analysis:

I remind everyone that I am a Ham first. This is a sideline activity, but something I enjoy doing.  I have been an AM/MW/Shortwave listener for over 55 years, VHF/FMBC/TV DX’er for over 45 years (don’t admit a CB’er too for that long), and a Ham for almost 40 years. I earned VUCC’s (100 Maidenhead Grid Squares) on 6 and 2 Meters in 1988. While in Texas, I worked 43 states on 2-Meters and over 200 Grid Squares terrestrial and all on Single Sideband or CW, plus a North American DX record on Tropo.  On 6 Meters, I worked over 60 DXCC entities and well over 550 Grid Squares.  In my over 35 years DX’ing on 2-Meters, I found that identifying VHF TV stations on Channel 6 and FM Broadcast in many cases led to 2-Meter openings to the same general locations of identified broadcast outlets.

I concur that there are better ways, better devices, and better software to do this. They cost a lot more and I am cheap. I enjoy squeezing blood out of a turnip. I prefer getting a lot out of a little. I found this activity to be fun and effective.

Areas Captured:
The map shows Maidenhead Grid Squares captured during the past 2 years. Several single squares were heard multiple times, especially near metropolitan areas, but was surprised by the large number of smaller towns copied. The plots are to the center point of the grid square heard, not the actual point. 

I have captured 94 grid squares the past 2 Es seasons (51 in 2017 & 78 in 2018). For 2018, I had more DX from Mexico, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

What Frequencies Were Monitored Most:
A surprise on these results. Although the distribution for the 2 years were somewhat different each year, the average and median frequencies were about the same for both years.
The average frequency captured was 95.8 MHz, the median was 93.3 MHz. 

My first year I spent my time watching Es build from the commercial low end of the band where RDS and PiCodes were prevalent. 
 In 2018, I experienced better RDS/PiCodes on the low end. I still focused on low end commercial stations beginning at 92.1 MHz.

Distances for FM Broadcast Es

In 2017, a simple 7 segment Histogram showed a close evenly distributed bell curve. The average distance of a captured FMBC station was 1,045.8 miles, the median was 1,040.  For 2018, the average capture was 1,077 miles with a median of 1,080. The trend for 2018 was slightly further captures, fewer short and more longer ones.

Maximum Useable Frequency
The normal characteristic of Es propagation is that as the patches (clouds) intensify, the result is that higher frequencies reflect. All MUF measurements are based on software developed by Dave Edwards G7RAU and Jim Loop K9SE.

In 2017, there was a smooth decline in captures as MUF increased. This was expected.
I was always looking at the low end of the broadcast band looking for the first indications of Es, then moving up the band as it was evident that it was intensifying.
In 2018, more openings towards Mexico commercial stations with RDS and PiCodes which further allowed me to identify them. Overall, fewer MUF’s above 115 MHz.
For 2 years they measured MUF for all captures was 101.6 MHz (+/- 0.6 for 2 years) and the median 99.9 MHz (almost no change both years).

Distance and its Relationship to Maximum Useable Frequency
Since I had a fair sampling of FMBC captures, I could do a sampling of these to see if a trendline could be determined.

Indeed a Trendline was identified. The trend was the shorter the distance, the higher the MUF. In addition, after 2 years, there appeared to be what I would call a “Sweet Spot”, a cluster of distance and MUF. The “Sweet Spot” is 1,000 miles and equates to an approximate MUF of 100 MHz.
Once 900-mile distances appear, MUF increases significantly. In 2018, although a higher MUF was experienced it did not equate to a 2-Meter opening (Pacific Ocean).

Conclusions and Ideas:

I did not experience any 2-Meter Es this season. I only heard a couple of short bursts to my east. That was unexpected and disappointing. There was only one very high MUF event that I could determine, and it was out to the Pacific Ocean. 
So, after a couple of years of doing this my thoughts and conclusions to help my 2-Meter efforts are:
1.   It is all about distance. Shorter distances equate to a higher MUF. Long distances on FMBC are nice, but don’t result in Es openings on 2-Meters.
2.   Instead of moving up the band to determine a higher MUF, monitor a narrow range and observe paths becoming shorter to indicate a rising MUF. Anything less than 700 miles should be considered as an extremely high MUF.
3.   I want to develop a method to measure amplitude of an intensifying Es opening or a peaked and declining one (new project for the future...thank you BR in AZ)

It has been fun the last 3 years doing this. The investment of my $17 RTL-SDR and a $70 Log-Periodic was well worth the results in the end.  
I also admit that at times doing this activity tended to draw my attention away from the Ham activities. I am a Ham first. This activity was to help supplement my pursuit of a new VUCC on 2-Meters.

I have already come up with plans to improve the operation next year. Tweaking is always a necessity. I know to do this better, I need to make improvements. 

Not sure what next year holds. I always hope to share with you all the fun I have doing this.

73 Art Jackson KA5DWI/7

Thursday, July 12, 2018

FMBC Es for 2018

It was a good Es Season on the FM Broadcast Band.
Just no 2 Meter Es.  I think there has been some opportunities, just wrong direction.
Here is the list for the Spring/Summer. Almost 30 more captures than last year.

I plan to post some statistics from both seasons (2017 & 2018) soon.

Es 6/04/18 UTC (-7 hours MST) from east of Prescott AZ DM34
93.3 KKSP AR Bryant 1021mi 01:58 RDS - The Fish
93.1 KGCX MT Sidney 1014mi 17:34 ID - Eagle 93
92.1 KZRX ND Dickinson 988mi 17:39 ID - Z92
93.7 KIZZ ND Minot 1086mi 17:41 Local Commercial
93.3 KMXV MO Kansas City 1027mi 17:53 ID - Mix 93.3
93.7 KTUF MO Kirksville 1148mi 18:03 ID - K Tough
93.7 KYEZ KS Salina 864mi 18:06 ID - Y93.7
97.1 KELN NE N.Platte 791mi 18:16 ID - Mix97.1
88.9 KRNW MO Chillicothe 1087mi 18:33 ID via WX Report
all received with a $17 RTL-SDR, HD8200XL log-periodic & SDR# software.

Es 6/07 UTC (-7 Hours MST)
92.7 KVCK MT Wolf Point 1000mi 14:30 ID-RDS
92.1 CHMX SK Regina 1170mi 14:38 Local Commercial Ad
93.3 KIOA IA Des Moines 1129mi 14:42 ID-RDS
92.9 KATF IA Dubuque 1287mi 14:55 ID- Kat FM
98.1 KHAK IA Cedar Rapids 1226mi 15:18 ID-RDS
92.1 KORN SD Parkston 989mi 15:40 ID-RDS

Es 6/17 UTC (-7 Hours MST)
92.1 XHPMAZ SIN Mazatlan 859mi 23:54 RDS La Caliente PiCode:9210

Es 6/19 UTC (-7 Hours MST)
91.9 KDSU ND Fargo 1162mi 00:54 North Dakota Public Radio
92.7 KGFX SD Pierre 924mi 00:59 ID at TOH
91.5 CKLQ MB Brandon 1214mi 01:40 ID Q-Country PiCode:CD3F
92.1 KZRX ND Dickinson 988mi 01:47 Local commercial, Slogan Z92 Relog
94.1 CFGW SK Yorkton 1250mi 01:57 ID Fox FM PiCode:C1BA
97.1 KYYX ND Minot 1088mi 02:08 ID Kyyx (Kicks) FM
96.3 CFWD SK Saskatoon 1253mi 02:16 Talk about city, Slogan Cruz-FMCKFI
97.1 CKFI SK Swift Current 1107mi 02:20 RDS Magic 97.1 PiCode:CC94
100.3 CJVR SK Dafoe 1245mi 02:27 RDS ID PiCode:CB8E
101.5 CHQX SK Price Albert 1316mi 02:35 RDS ID X-FM Sask's Rockstation PiCode:C58B

Es 6/19 Morning & Afternoon  Times UTC (-7 Hours MST)
I was copying the FT8 mail on 6-Meters all morning. It suddenly died out. I turned on SDRSharp.
I was doing some work on the computer when I looked up and saw the waterfall lit up.
6 Meters was still for the most part, quiet. SO here goes...
92.3 WHHG TN Milan 1324mi 14:50 ID, The Hog PiCode:67E0
93.1 KZLE AR Batesville 1160mi 14:54 ID
93.1 WTJS TN Alamo 1309mi 14:56 ID, Talk of Jackson (TN)
96.5 KSPW MO Sparta 1074mi 15:10 RDS Power 96.5 PiCode:4124
98.7 KWTO MO Springfield 1073mi 15:16 Sports "The Jock"
99.7 KBTN MO Neosho 1009mi 15:40 ID No music all Yak.
99.3 KTPG AR Paragould 1222mi 15:50 Commercials, Jill Radio
100.5 KEGI AR Trumann 1219mi 15:56 RDS, ID, The Eagle PiCode:1B34
Honey Do Time
100.5 KVWF KS Augusta 869mi 16:00-:45 RDS PiCode:49B5
106.3 KRZK MO Branson 1080mi 17:11 ID Country
93.5 KMYK MO Osage 1119mi 17:53 ID, 93.5 Rocks
102.5 KKDY MO West Plains 1150mi 18:00 ID TOH, RDS PiCode:2ACE
Hospital run
104.5 KMYZ OK Pryor 940mi 19:04 RDS The Edge PiCode:3239
106.5 KKIK AR Horseshoe Bend 1148mi 19:11 ID Outlaw 106.5
105.9 KGBX MO Nixa 1083mi 19:18 RDS PiCode:2009
106.3 WQRL IL Benton 1330mi 19:38 ID Local Commercials
106.9 KTXY MO Jefferson City 1129mi 19:42 ID PiCode:449A
107.3 WDDD IL Johnston City 1316mi 19:50 ID as W3D PiCode:5CE5
107.3 KLPW MO Steelville 1177mi 19:51 RDS ESPN Sports PiCode:2EA8
107.9 KCLQ MO Lebanon 1119mi 19:57 ID now.. Renegade Radio
Heard what I beieve may have been "Alabama. A reference to a TV station WAKA.
Had to leave
Hospital run #2. In the car. 2013 GM Terrain
92.7 KRZP AR Gassville 1121mi 20:19 RDS K92.7
91.7 KCVX MO Salem 1172mi 20:19 RDS Spirit FM

Es 6/20 Morning and Afternoon Times UTC (-7 Hours MST)
Southern flair this morning, then a little more north this afternoon.
90.1 XHRYS TAMPS Reynosa 1014mi 18:11 RDS Hits FM PiCode:9001 Note:FCC DB shows 2430W
92.1 XHPMAZ SIN Mazatlan 859mi 18:17 RDS La Caliente PiCode:9210 Relog
93.3 XHEDT MEX Toluca 1330mi 18:30 RDS Grupo Siete PiCode:9310 ID by Website station listings.
94.5 KFRQ TX Harlingen 1036mi 18:39 ID, Local commercials. Talk about rain.
94.9 XHTEC NL Monterrey 940mi 18:48 RDS FREC-TEC Telephono PiCode:3712 Talk
96.5 XHMSN NL Cadereyta 968mi 18:54 RDS Dominio FM Talk PiCode:997B
92.1 KRLS IA Knoxville 1146mi 21:00 RDS PiCode:3E14 News/Weather
93.7 KNTK NE Firth (Lincoln) 950mi 21:06 Chicago Cubs Baseball
95.7 KQWC IA Webster City 1134mi 21:14 RDS PiCode:327E ID

Es 6/21 Afternoon Times UTC (-7 Hours MST)
92.7 WBKL LA Clinton 1255mi 20:55 RDS PiCode:585B K-Love
92.7 KIVY TX Crockett 998mi 21:10 RDS PiCode:275A Country
89.7 WPAE MS Centreville 1251mi 21:22 RDS PiCode:7C48 ID Phone# Gospel (Note: Called them to let know they were heard in AZ) In for a long time.
90.7 KLSA LA Alexandria 1157mi 21:30 RDS PiCode:2EE0 NPR
93.1 KTYL TX Tyler 1009mi 21:44 ID Mix 93.1
89.9 WWNO LA New Orleans 1335mi 21:59 ID New Orleans Public Radio
88.3 KJRN TX Keene 871mi 22:07 RDS PiCode:298B 88.3 The Journey
92.7 KJVC LA Mansfield 1082mi 22:13 PiCode:29E8 In and Out

Es 6/22 Late Morning Times UTC (-7 Hours MST)
92.3 KGON OR Portland 933mi 17:59 RDS PiCode:2151 ID
93.7 KRLZ OR Waldport 934mi 18:16 RDS PiCode:3E1B Now "The Wave 93.7" Mention of Lincoln City and website.
92.7 KNCU OR Newport 941mi 18:23 ID U-92
Note: Probably most of the reflection was into the Pacific Ocean. The last 2 captures are on the Pacific Coast.

Es 7/08 Early evening 7/07 UTC (-7 Hours MST)
92.1 KCRK WA Colville 1010mi 00:27 PiCode:170C ID "Awesome"
93.7 KDRK WA Spokane 931mi 00:33 ID "93.7 the Mountain"

Es 7/10 Late Afternoon before the dinner bell. UTC (-7 Hours MST)
93.7 WTNM MS Courtland 1267mi 23:08 PiCode:8832 RDS Slogan "Supertalk MS (Mississippi)
93.3 WSYE MS Houston (Tupelo) 1334mi 23:13 Local Commercials, "Sunny 93-3"
92.1 KDQN AR De Queen 1023mi 23:20 ID Local Commercials
93.7 KHBM AR Monticello 1173mi 23:24 Slogan Southeast Arkansas, SeeArks Choice Classic Rock

Es 7/12 Morning Times UTC (-7 Hours MST)
89.3 XHRRR VER Papantla de Olarte 1335mi 15:32 Reference to Huasteca, commercials Vericruz
91.5 XHMLS ZAC Zacatecas 1002mi 15:41 Classic Hits (English)
91.3 XHMLS TMP Matamoros 1066mi 15:45 PiCode RDS "Exitos 91.3" ALso heard in car @ 16:25
91.9 XHEC COH Sabinas 802mi 15:47 PiCode RDS "La Mas Buena"
97.7 XHRW TMP Tampico 1218mi 15:54  PiCode RDS "Los 40 Principales"
99.3 XHNK TMP Nuevo Laredo 900mi 15:59 RDS ID Spanish Hits
100.3 KTEX TX Mercedes (McAllen) 1037mi 16:13 PiCode RDS and ID "K-TEX" Also, still heard @ 17:22
104.1 KBFM TX Edinburg 1037mi 17:27 PiCode RDS "Wild 104"
100.9 KSXY CA Forestville 653mi 17:41 PiCode noted RDS "The 101 Alternative" Note: Shortest capture in 2 years
In car:
90.1 XHRYS TMP Reynosa 1015mi 16:25 RDS and ID "Hits 90.1"

Es 7/22 Playing the CQ VHF Contest this morning. UTC (-7 Hours MST)
88.1 KAYT LA Jena 1157mi 17:33 Good ID's In/Out
89.3 WRKF LA Baton Rouge 1258mi 17:39 Good ID also In/out

Es 7/23 Best morning opening in over a month. UTC (-7 Hours MST)
92.7 KGFX SD Pierre 924mi 14:56 ID "River 92.7" In/Out
92.3 KEZO NE Omaha 997mi 15:03 Slogan Z92
91.9 KQSD SD Lowry 983mi 15:28 Excellent reading RDS & PiCode, Public Radio
92.7 K224AA MT Missoula 856mi 15:33 1st AM Translator @175W of KGRZ-1450, Sports Dan Patrick
93.3 KSJZ ND Jamestown 1101mi 15:38 RDS PiCode and ID. "Mix 93.3"
93.1 KGCX MT Sidney 1014mi 15:41 Local commercials, Classic Rock
95.5 KYNU ND Jamestown 1121mi 15:57 RDS PiCode Local Commercials
105.9 KMIT SD Mitchell 980mi 16:03 ID "Call the KMIT Hotline"
105.1 KQWB MN Breckinridge 1161mi 16:06 RDS PiCode Q105 Headbanger Music
106.5 KRJB MN Ada 1199mi 16:20 RDS PiCode ID Note: Hung around a while about 30 min.
106.1 KEXS MO Ravenwood 1040mi 16:40 EWTN. Catholic Network. Talk
107.3 KBBK NE Lincoln 954mi Local Commercials
96.9 KIAQ IA Clarion PiCode ID

Es 7/24 UTC Late afternoon (-7 Hours MST)
92.7 KISY TX Blossom 958mi 00:06 PiCode 270C In/Out
93.1 XHAAA TMPS Reynosa 1014mi 00:20 RDS PiCode

Es 7/29 UTC Morning (-7 Hours MST)
93.1 XHAAA TMPS Reynosa 1014mi 16:27 PiCode Slogan ID LaCaliente
88.1 KNTU TX McKinney 870mi 18:15 ID "The One" playing Jazz

Es 8/04 Morning UTC (-7 Hours MST)
89.9 KYMS ID Rathdrum 961mi 16:45 Local talk, Animal rescue Spokane/Coeur d'Alene

Es 8/13 Morning Between Dr. appointment and Phoenix run. UTC (-7 Hours MST)
100.9 KOWZ MN Blooming Praire 1198mi 16:22 Local commercials, Live Stream verify
100.5 KIKN SD Salem 1004mi 16:30 Local commercials, Mixing with another station.
98.7 KISD MN Pipestone 1082mi 16:37 ID, Oldies Mixing with PHX station
99.7 KKCK MN Marshall 1080mi 16:52 RDS PICode ID

RTL-SDR, HD8200XL Log-Periodic and SDRSharp software
2013 GMC Terrain Car radio
Near Prescott Arizona Grid Square DM34

2018 FMBC Grid Squares Captured
Some SDR# Screenprints this Es Season:
Es Signal next to my most powerful local, K-LOVE

FMBC Es have lots of fading.

92.1 MHz is my normal hangout. My local is low powered over a mountain.

Happy times is an RDS & PiCiode

Es on Steroids. Semi-locals overrun.

Better luck this season with Mexican RDS & PiCodes

By now I am screaming CQ on 144.200

Look for short distance strong stations for indications of Higher MUF.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

FT8 is Addictive

I am still struggling with the benefits of FT8.
I just can't deny the results.
Here is a 24 hour display of my 6 and 10 Meter results yesterday, July 10.
10 and 6 Meter Heard/Heard By/Worked
I call FT8 "Casual DXing".
You sit back and let your eyes and computer do the work.
Still love the old-fashioned ways, but you can't knock it until you try it.
73 Art