I was working POTA stations in the upper reaches of 40 meters, and you wouldn’t believe how rough the copy was … or actually, maybe you would. Summertime is here … terrible deadly thunderstorms in the Midwest … the general elevated noise levels in our normal environment … all combine to raise the noise floor on the lower bands to the point where many signals are on the cusp of being unreadable. Quite a few of the stations are using low power and compromise antennas. That, coupled with the heterodynes from AM broadcast stations, drive you to distraction. The QSB tantalizes you by raising the signals above the noise and then just when you’re ready to copy something critical, dashing them down into the mud. Life is hard 😀 !
But … help is available! Today’s SDRs really have the capability of pulling some of them out of the hash (I have an IC-7300). Yesterday, I resorted to using all of the bells and whistles I could … auto notch, noise reduction, twin passband tuning, RF gain, tone controls … even the outboard audio filters in my speaker enclosure. All helped to give me just enough of an edge to copy some of those “unreadable” stations. DSP RULES!
So, what’s the moral of this story? Use all the tools that you have available! Yes, many of the older radios have beautiful sounding audio and great sensitivity, but today’s modern radios offer many tools that were not even dreamed of when those radios were designed and built. We truly live in amazing times!!
If you’re an HF aficionado, you have certainly noticed that band conditions are not optimal this week …
The K-index is very high, and the lower bands are very noisy. Solar storms will wreak havoc with HF communications. There are still QSOs to be made … just not as good as usual.
But, when one door closes, another usually opens. Although I wasn’t able to be part of the group, I read in the forums that 6 and 10 meters had some GREAT openings. Remember, we’re getting into the season for sporadic openings on the higher bands. Check up there now and then.
Folks … the bands have been really noisy at my QTH lately. Lots of spring storms with their associated lightning crashes have really made listening a lot more difficult. The QSB hasn’t been much better either.
As you know if you follow this blog, I’ve been bitten by the Parks on the Air (POTA) bug, and have really been pursuing activations of parks. I have nearly 60 confirmed now. A lot of these are, by their very nature, QRP operations with inefficient, compromise antenna systems. That, coupled with noise and generally poor propagation, has made things rough. It’s frustrating hearing other hunters working these activators, and I can’t even tell they’re there.
The temperatures have been up and down … typical spring weather here, but the trend is upwards. It does seem to rain and storm most weekends, so it’s hard to get outside and do portable ops. I’m afraid this more pleasant weather will soon end, with summer raising its ugly head with temperatures in the 90s and 100s with high humidity … unfortunately also typical for this area.
Whatever … not much I can do about it! I’ll just work through it until later in the year when I can complain about it being too cold. That’s the nature of the human beast … never satisfied 🙂 .
I took a day off from work today. I’ve built up 455 hours of vacation time, and I can only carry over 400 to the next fiscal year, which begins August 1st, so I’ll be burning a few hours now and then. It wouldn’t disappear, though … they just move the excess into my sick leave account.
I slept in, and then got up and took lunch to my wife at work and spent some time with her. I returned home and turned on the rig. Nasty sounds! We had an electrical storm while I was with the wife, and there’re still more thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon and evening. The bands were so bad, I even went out and checked my antenna.
I disconnected the feedline and radials at the base and carried the UnUn into the shack, where I disassembled and checked it. It looks OK inside, so I buffed up the outside connections and reconnected everything. The bands are still crappy, but I have a lot more confidence in it not being antenna connections now.
There’s nothing spectacular going on radio-wise in my shack. I’m still pursuing POTA Activators, and still regularly working FT8 contacts. Same ol’ same ol’.
I didn’t dive into the CQ WW WPX SSB this weekend, but I hadn’t planned to either. HOWEVER … I did pursue contacts for Parks on the Air.
I was rather surprised by how many POTA activators were doing their thing during a major contest weekend, but there were lots. I managed to work around ten parks. Some of them were booming in, some were weak, some were down in the noise and really depended on catching them when the QSB brought them up to the workable level. Of course, some were spotted that I couldn’t even tell were there.
I’ve had very little luck on any band other than 40 meters. Sometimes it goes long, but most of the time it’s the eastern half of the US that I”m hearing. Most of my contacts have been SSB, but only a few were CW. That’s because most of the activators seem to prefer SSB.
I ordered an American Morse Equipment Porta Paddle II and base last week, and USPS tracking says it’s out for delivery. Great … I’ll have an evening project today. I’ve been looking for a portable key and I think this will fit the bill! I’ll let you know later.
The temperature was up in the 70’s this weekend and just beautiful outside. Today (Monday) and tomorrow, the high is supposed to be near 50. Warming up again on Wednesday! C’mon Spring!!!