Today 15 August I began my activation of W0C/FR-026 on a beautiful, dry, alpine, sunny morning at 3700M. It was 1547 UT, and the only clue that anything was strange was that 30M sounded very quiet as I adjusted my tuner. I found a perfect match for my EFHW and started calling CQ at 10.113, per my Alert.
I called for over 10 minutes and never got a call. My antenna was near the summit, on a 6M pole, and just down the ridge on the east side. I was running 5W of CW from the same ATS 3B rig I’ve used for years.
I tuned up on 21.063 and started calling CQ at 1557 UT. After several minutes of dead silence, I tuned around and heard only a few very weak signals down the band. I called for a few more minutes with no replies. This was highly irregular! Sometimes I get callers from Europe right out of the start.
I went back to 10.113 and called CQ for a few more minutes - same quiet band, and no calls. Usually the chasers are beating each other up to get me…but not this time.
I gave up, changed the link in the antenna, and started calling CQ on 18.0925. In a couple of minutes NE4TN was calling, and then I got a couple more - K2XT in NJ was very strong - he could copy me OK - what was going on?
There were only three callers on 17M, so I finally played my trump card and tuned up on 14.063 CW. In two minutes I was spotted, and then the calls started piling in - but the QSB was awful, some of chasers obviously couldn’t hear me, and the reports were down from normal. At 12150 feet, in the thin air, it seemed so incredibly unfair - I had hiked up from 9100 feet, and both the weather and the site were essentially perfect!
When I got home later, I checked the solar conditions at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center - there it was - a major geomagnetic storm was in progress - it was triggered by an erupting filament, which created at CME a couple of days ago.
Wonder if any you chasers and activators noticed anything odd today? Wow, I sure did! I never even got spotted by the Reverse Beacon Network on either 15M or 30M, despite many minutes of calling CQ! Usually I get a page of spots for that! I was lucky to get spotted on 17M and 20M - but the numbers were lousy! Clearly there was much more absorption than usual today.
The other half of the problem is that the 10 cm solar flux has fallen to a very low value of 89, much lower than what we have been enjoying for many months. This lowers the MUF, so no wonder 15M was useless, and 17M was marginal.
Thanks to all my chasers who copied through the QSB, and apologies to a couple who dropped out before we could complete the exchange.
Surely I am not the only one who noticed these miserable ionospheric conditions!