Sunday, December 5, 2010

A 5-Year Study of 10-Meter Es Propagation Using PropNET Capture Data - Part 1

Hi all
I will begin posting excepts of my 5-Year Study of 10-Meter Es Using PropNET.
The study was part of the proceedings for this year's Central States VHF Conference.
I have done this for the Hamradio hobby. Enjoy this and I hope that you all use this to operate more on the HF and VHF bands. All I ask is that if you use this material outside of this forum that you give credit to the PropNET organization as the source.

It will be posted in parts. It is a 50 page document. If you wish to read the study, join the PropNET Yahoo Group:
The full study is available in the "Files" section.


A 5-Year 10-Meter Es Propagation Study Using PropNET
by Arthur J. Jackson
KA5DWI Fort Worth, Texas
Final Release
Sunday, December 5, 2010
© 2010 Arthur J. Jackson

A 5-Year 10-Meter Es Propagation Study Using PropNET

Preamble and Background History:

Interests and Curiosity:
I believe that I come from one the last generation of Citizen Band Radio operators who took the operating skills learned there and used them to operate proficiently in Amateur Radio. Although I agree that the old “good buddy” days changed the Citizen Band for the worse, it helped a large number of those operators to become good Hams. The early CB operators, whether they wanted to or not had to learn to operate in and around occasions when the ionosphere lit up and was reflecting signals. Good ground wave contacts were virtually impossible at times. Many would operate very late at night for local rag-chews because it was the only time that the 11-Meter band was quiet. It was not uncommon at these late hours to complete (accidentally although illegal) a contact with someone 500-1000 miles away. The term “short-skip” was used to describe this condition that what today is called Sporadic Es propagation.

Since becoming a Ham in 1979, the 10-Meter Ham band has always been one of my favorite places to operate. I was lucky that during this time 10-Meters was roaring with DX as Cycle 21 was nearing its peak. The band was pure DX. As a Novice, I remember listening for European beacons at the upper end of the Novice portion (CW from 28.100 - 28.200 MHz) and then moving back to the low end and working many of them till about noon local time. In the late afternoon, 10-Meters was full of both Asian and Oceania signals. During the fall and winter months the band was quite predictable. Using George Jacob’s - W3ASK propagation book, his article in CQ Magazine, plus the latest WWV solar indices it was not too hard to figure out when and to where 10-Meters was open.

I collected a large number of countries with relatively low-power, a good 10-Meter Yagi (a CB conversion), and a good curiosity and understanding of F2 propagation. Except for some occasional Central and South American signals, once it was 2 to 3 weeks after the Spring Equinox, 10-Meters flatly died out. That sudden loss of propagation resulted in many to run off to other bands and overlook the development of Es propagation later in the month of April and early May.

Besides my CB activity, I was a FM/TV Broadcast Band DX’er well before becoming a Ham, and continued the practice well afterwards. My first year as a Ham, I realized as DX activity on the lower television channels was occurring, 10-Meters was also open to regions not normally open in times of F2 propagation. I suddenly remembered my past CB experiences of what we called “short-skip”. It was too late into the Es season, but luckily I enjoyed a few good Es QSOs in the CW portion of 10-Meters before the F2 propagation finally showed up again in September.

My interest in “Mode A” Satellites (2-Meters up - 10-Meters down) in the early 1980’s resulted in also becoming active in 2-Meter SSB Weak-Signal. I clearly remember hearing U.S. 10-Meter FM repeaters and operators in between RS-5, 6, 7 and 8 and then working several more SSB and CW QSOs on 10-Meters during the spring and summer. The end result of my satellite activity was my first 2-Meter SSB Es QSOs. I have found nothing more exciting than working 2-Meter Es and my curiosity about this Es grew.

Throughout the years on 2-Meter SSB, I have operated with an extremely modest station. I have always attempted to be ready and waiting on any propagation opportunity rather than creating my own by putting together a “Big Gun” set-up. I have achieved a great amount of success on 2-Meter SSB with that effort (43 states, 199 Grid Squares) thanks in part to being prepared for many Es openings. I learned that listening to 10-Meters, along with watching for signals on analog TV Channels 2-6 was the perfect way to be ready. On a couple of occasions, I worked the same station on 10 and 2-Meters within the same Es opening. In May 1986, I worked my 50th state (Oklahoma) on 10-Meter Sporadic Es just as 2-Meters opened up. I completed a 1450-mile QSO on 2-Meters in that same opening. I always noticed that some of the best 2-Meter Es openings I had experienced were also excellent 10-Meter Es events.

In 1987, I became active on 6-Meters, and the following year on AMSAT-Oscar 13 Modes B and J. Sadly my 10-Meter activity suffered in the process. Still it was not uncommon that at least during Field Days that I would operate “1C” (mobile) running on 10-Meters searching for that potential Es opening. Due to work and travel, from the mid 1990’s until after 2000, my Ham activity was very limited. I still tried to make an effort to at least make sure the rigs worked, and would show up on 10 and 6-Meters during Field Day and other summer contests to experience Es propagation. My curiosity and observations never waned. On numerous occasions I would discuss and share experiences with others as to what was behind Es propagation. I spent many an afternoon and evening rag-chewing with other VHF aficionados about the phenomena. I also seemed to be more thrilled making 10, 6 and 2-Meter Es QSOs than most of the F2 ones on the HF bands.

In 2001, I retired from my chosen profession and once again had an opportunity to operate what was my favorite HF band. Ham Radio had changed much in a few short years, and I was somewhat surprised by the lack of activity on 10-Meters. I found the band much too quiet during the spring and summer months. I also personally concentrated on 6-Meters as we were enjoying the peak of Cycle 23. In 2002 as my Ham activity was on the upswing, I ran across a new Ham Radio activity called Beaconet on a VHF/UHF digital interest Yahoo Group. The Beaconet group was using the BPSK31 mode instead of AX.25 Packet for identification. I was impressed with BPSK31 because of its ease of use between a rig and the computer sound card without utilizing a TNC. I had completed a few BPSK31 QSOs on HF and learned that many signals could be copied and worked in a narrow bandwidth and minimal conditions.

In 2003, I could not seem to locate the Beaconet group. I inquired on the Yahoo Group that I first noticed Beaconet and got an immediate response from Ev Tupis, W2EV. Beaconet was alive and well, but it was now called PropNET. Immediately, I was drawn towards doing something positive with it. In late spring of 2004 while using software named MultiPSK, I participated more in a “lurker” (listening only) mode on 10-Meters. I was very satisfied with the results. Using a sequenced formatted transmission, each reception of a PropNET participant’s signal was logged by the software and a daily “Catch Report” was generated. Many of my past memories of how and when Es formed were being jogged about, and a number of old theories were being recalled. I could now capture from a statistically sound sampling, real data to compile, review, and analyze. I decided that for the 2005 Spring/Summer Es season I would become a fulltime participant in PropNET to produce a propagation study.

For 2005, W2EV Ev Tupis, N7YG Jeff Stienkamp, K4HG Steve Dimse, and KF6XA Dave Donnelly had made major changes for the betterment of the entire PropNET group. It brought in more participants and raised the sample of users to make a better study. New software called PropNetPSK easily configured your own transmissions, logged complete and partial receptions of PropNET transmissions, produced a Catch Report, and most important now updated real-time propagation maps via a Telnet connection known as LiveXchange (LiveX). With the ability to see your call on a map, interest picked up in the Ham community. I had a sampling that would easily satisfy the “Central Limit Theorem” used in statistical workings.

Despite quite a few years of working Es, many of my personal opinions and theories immediately proved to need refinement. I compiled a statistical summary of the 2005 Spring/Summer Es season and my first thought was that I needed to it again for 2006. The data for 2005 was clean, but it needed more support. In 2006, overall conditions seemed to be much better. The data gathered was much improved, although at times I had more problems with the software. After gathering these 2 years of data, many of trends that occur with Es were more clearly defined, but still a third year of data was needed to insure that the prior two years were consistent.

I did my absolute best on the third year to remove any of the past difficulties I had within the prior two. The goal was to produce reliable and clean data. The third year was the best and most thorough year of all. With this third year I compiled a comprehensive 3-year study for those years of data. Unfortunately, working on a Bachelor’s Degree and starting a teaching career delayed its completion late enough that I decided to participate for a 4th year to put the “icing on the cake” and was a good decision. Once again the teaching career and certification and a well desired vacation during the best time to present this put me in the position to add a 5th and final year. The fourth and fifth years confirmed many of my past observations that I failed to see and also shows interesting trends from the first three.

No one year was perfect, but it never had a serious affect on the overall numbers gathered. All attempts to be consistent in operations were maintained throughout the five years as to working habits, rigs and antennas. The same software PropNetPSK was used on three very similar desktop computers; except that one ran Windows ME, one ran Windows XP Home and the third ran XP Pro.

Operating and Background Information:

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