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September 2020 Tropo recap

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  • September 2020 Tropo recap

    Had the chance to review audio and logs from the tropo this past September and before it gets too far behind, I wanted to take the chance to post about it since it deserved it.

    Several recent Septembers/Fall seasons as a whole have not been great for tropo here in NJ, despite it usually being the best chance for such activity. I blame the weather patterns which have seemed to feature summer humidity and moisture lasting into October. This was actually the first September very close to normal as far as temperature departure from average since 2013 (which, as luck would have it, was the last really good Fall tropo season I've noted). The period this past September of interest was between 9/6 and 9/16, which all told featured as good tropo conditions as I have seen DXing since 2005. While nothing record-breaking or extraordinarily far, I think it was nearly as good as it can get for this particular region, particularly on 9/16. The quick rundown of openings:

    September 6 evening into September 7 morning - A good opening downcoast to NC, including good signals from Wilmington NC which is notable as tropo openings often end at the OBX here. 94.9 WVCO from Loris/Myrtle Beach SC was also heard. An opening like this is usually heard once or twice a year here.

    September 7 evening into September 8 morning - The tropo shifted northeast, starting with Cape Cod but quickly spreading to Nova Scotia before 6 PM, which is always a good sign. Several signals from the Yarmouth/Shelburne area at first, with several from Halifax following. The tropo continued to strengthen with booming signals from Southern New England. Before 8 PM, Maine made an appearance, with good signals from 107.5 WFNK and 102.9 WBLM, which becomes rarer territory here. After 11 PM, however, is when this opening reached rarefied territory, with surprisingly strong signals from PEI, including 93.1 CHLQ, 95.1 CFCY, 102.1 CJRW, 104.7 CBCH, and 105.5 CKQK, all over 700 miles. Fredericton NB, which I had never heard via tropo prior, showed with solid signals from 105.3 CFXY and 106.9 CIBX right over locals without phasing, plus several from much rarer areas of Maine here, including 102.9 WCRQ, 89.7 WMED, along with several from Bangor/Bar Harbor. Several signals from Saint John NB followed. Between about 11 PM and 1 AM, conditions seemed about as close it can get around here to be reminiscent Gulf of Mexico-esque induced tropo, with a sea of strong signals with the antenna aimed NE. The tropo never died overnight and after 6 AM on an unattended SDR recording I had an RDS signal from 91.9 CJNI from Moncton, plus strong signals from 89.3 and 94.9 from Kentville NS.

    September 8 evening into September 9 morning - Intense tropo continued with solid signals from Halifax plus Southern New England. Nothing terribly unusual or notable was heard, but the intensity of the signals from the DMV area and the Chesapeake Bay region off the back demonstrated the strength of the duct, which was proven with reports of Halifax and Boston being heard by DXers in the Washington DC and Richmond VA areas.

    September 11 evening into September 12 morning - After a big coastal opening, tropo typically takes several days off in between weather systems, but that was not the case here as after a frontal passage, the Great Lakes path September is known for began to open as 89.1 WKSV from Thompson OH showed, with 96.7 CHYM from ON, often a beacon, quickly following. 94.7 WCSX and 107.5 WGPR from Detroit were logged, always welcomed as Detroit is certainly rare, and after 3 AM, multiple signals from Toronto and Kitchener were heard. 93.7 CKYC from Owen Sound and 97.7 CHMS from Bancroft were also noted as the opening stretched out. A solid lakes event.

    September 12 evening into September 13 morning - The tropo moved east with erratic, but unusual signals interspersed across eastern New York and northern New England, again, harder to hear areas from here due to terrain. RSPDuo diversity mode helped yield 104.5 WTMM from the Albany area, 106.1 WHDQ from NH, and 105.3 WJEN from VT through locals. After 6 AM on unattended recordings, Maine made another apperance, with good signals from 96.3 WJJB and 88.5 WHCF.

    September 15 evening through September 16 - The crown jewel event, which was marked by a smoky, hazy sky throughout due to the California/Oregon wildfires. Did the smoke have any impact on the inversion? I do not know enough to say. But this seemed like one of those events I've read about happening the 70s or 80s in the VUD, but figuring would be very unlikely now either due to changed weather patterns or band conditions. The APRS started lighting up before sunset on the 15th and I found a couple beacons from ON, including 96.7 CHYM again along with 95.9 CFPL. Several other signals from Toronto and Hamilton were found, along with a fleeting appearance from 92.5 WBEE via diversity mode. Nothing next-level as far as areas heard yet.

    I found a classical station steady on 90.5 for a long period that ended up ID'ing as 90.5 WKAR from MI at 3 AM. Shortly thereafter, I discovered a signal on 93.1 airing Coast to Coast AM. WIBC was the only station that made sense, but it seemed hard to believe. Tropo from IN is not unheard of (I've heard 100.5 WWKI on two occasions, I suspected I had 94.7 WFBQ once in 2016, and others in the region have had IN before), but still a rarity. After losing the signal, it came back after 4:30 AM and ID'd as WIBC and ended up getting stronger. WFBQ, WFMS, and WTTS from Indy were eventually also ID'd with shockingly decent signals (WIBC, WTTS, and WFMS were all heard with the aid of diversity mode). 100.9 WPGW (with the lucky aid of WBEB's IBOC being off) and 103.7 WFIU were also heard from IN. Around 7:15, the opening reached legendary status with a weak but audible signal from 104.3 WCBH crossing the border into IL. At 7:30, 91.7 WVXU, 92.5 WOFX, and 94.1 WNNF from Cincinnati were heard (another market I had never had tropo to), all thanks to diversity mode through Philly locals. I finally had to step away for a little sleep, but the opening continued through the morning, as unattended IQ recordings showed WFBQ in and out through noontime. 91.3 WGTE from Toledo was heard around 11 AM, as were 92.9 from Dayton, and several from the Cleveland area including 90.3 WCPN and 107.3 WNWV. The tropo lingered through at least 2 PM (Detroit made another appearance with 94.7 and 96.3 around that time).

    That evening, the tropo returned again for a period, as 95.5 and 93.1 from Cleveland were in around 10 PM.

    The tropo on the 16th was probably the best I have seen here. I posted several clips from the month directly from IQ recordings on my YouTube channel:

    All of the recordings featuring signals with SDRUno diversity mode I played back in HDSDR just for the ability to use RDS Spy. This tropo was awesome but diversity mode took it to a whole other level. If you have the capability to use a second antenna, I cannot recommend it enough. I use the APS-13 as my primary (rooftop at 20') and have been using the Innov 8-element antenna on a tripod only about 8 or 9' off the ground. It is very sensitive and the combination seems to be very effective for nulling Philadelphia IBOC to nothing, and having the chance to get signals through Philly even aimed at Philly, with the signal underneath while both antennas are aimed at Philly usually coming from the Innov. I never thought it would be possible to get clear western tropo signals on Philly IBOC sideband channels (let alone Cincinnati stations on Philly channels themselves). Again, not all openings are alike, but I couldn't imagine DXing without diversity mode now.
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