Does Winter Es exist?
Or is there just Sporadic E and sometimes it happens in the Winter?
Could it be that a lot of radio amateurs are around their radios over Christmas and the New Year so this phenomenon is reported?
And, on a similar vein, are there so few amateurs listening to low VHF during February that nobody notices any then?
To these questions, like many about Sporadic E, I have no answers.
I guess that Toyah Wilcox meant Winter Es when she sang way back in 1981, "It's a mystery".
|Toyah Wilcox in 2021 (Photo Andrew D. Hurley, Wikimedia Commons)|
It seems to me that lots of people think they have the answer to these mysteries. They speak with great authority about what causes Es, but they cannot make any reasonably accurate prediction about when or where it might happen. I know for a fact that I don't know the answers to this. I have no idea what bears do in the woods either.
Anyway, Winter Es struck here from 3 to 9 January. 11 countries and 27 squares were worked on 50MHz, plus a couple on 70MHz.
|QSOs on 50MHz at GM4FVM 3 to 9 January 2023|
A local amateur mentioned to me that there had been no "Christmas Es" in 2022. I said that I had 32 QSOs, but it happened from 3 to 9 January. He had missed it because he believed in the name "Christmas Es". I fact Winter Es is a much better name. In my experience it can happen at any time over a 6 or 7 week period between early December and mid January, and all of it single hop around Europe.
Most of the openings coincided exactly with high K numbers. On one day the K number was low but there was a sudden increase in X-Ray radiation from the Sun. I must keep a watch on the X-Ray and proton figures from the Sun as these were the original numbers I used to monitor. I think I am concentrating too much on K-numbers these days.
Meanwhile, I accidentally generated an image of all the 50MHz contacts in my logbook since I moved here over 12 years ago. This is not everything as it may not include some paper logbook era contacts which did not get entered unless somebody asked for a QSL card. However it looks interesting, to my eye anyway.
|QSOs on 50MHz at GM4FVM 23 February 2010 to 9 January 2023|
2941 QSOs, of which 3 were CW, 150 phone and 2788 data - quite a lot PSK31 and JT65. That is one QSO every 1.6868723099 days. I worked 458 squares in 85 countries, and the best DX was JG1TSG at 9285km. I can see now how the Brazilian stations was a shorter distance than the Mexican one. Nothing in South America beyond that grazing blow in Brazil. Nothing in East Asia apart from Japan.
My 6m operations are maybe a bit odd. I only really look at 50MHz outside the main Summer Es season. Over the years have only I tried to run a reasonable antenna and anything above 100W for a few months. Right now I am using the Diamond 2 element HB9CV and 100W.
One contact amongst the thousands which attracted my attention today was the one into Chad on 20 October 2022. This was during the Trans Equatorial Propagation peak. Quite a few UK stations worked TT8SN then too, and they also worked various West and Southern African stations.
|GM4PMK magnetometer as seen at GM4FVM on 20 October 2022.|
It was a rise in the K number that got me interested on 20 October 2020, but I was not expecting to work Chad.
As usual I could see stations on PSK Reporter in Italy and up to Southern England working TEP, but as a rule it never reaches the English Midlands never mind Scotland. Not sure if this was Es linking into TEP, but there was a high K number at the time. DX outside Europe in October represents something I have not seen before.
|Contact between GM4FVM and TT8SW on 20 October 2022.|
I see that I was also hearing ZS6WAB at the same time. That would have been 9358km and a new DX record for me as well as a new country and square. ZS6NK was also audible but I could not work either of the South Africans, though other GMs did achieve this.
It seems pretty clear to me that this could not simply be TEP. For a start, TT8SN is geographically in the Northern Hemisphere. TEP does not work by the geographical equator but by the geomagnetic equator which swings to the north of Chad. The idea is that each station will be arranged at roughly equal distances north and south of the geomagnetic equator. But I am far further north than this. Maybe ZS6WAB is closer to being equally placed, but I am still further north than the right distance. Anyway, I DID NOT WORK ZS6WAB, though I did hear him. Grrr.
One of the reasons why stations as far north as me do not work TEP is because there simply is no landmass in the "right" place. Even with the tilt of the geomagnetic equator to the north, an equidistant point south of the geomagnetic equator for me would probably be in the ocean somewhere south of Cape Town. Thus I see South African stations on PSK Reporter working into France. It is possible to work TEP at an angle to the equator in which case the south of South America comes into range, but by then the distance involved means that the already weak signals would be lost in the noise.
So what is the explanation for this? Well I can only hazard a couple of guesses. First, I can probably rule out normal Es, as this was October. In October any Es which there is usually single hop. So I do not hear, say, the Canary Islands which I can work during the Summer on multi-hop Es, but not in October. Secondly I can probably rule out TEP in TT8SN's case as I am far too far north to be equidistant for him. In the cases of ZS6NK and ZS6WAB that would be more possible but I have never seen anything like that before. So I am left with assuming that this was Es, encouraged by the high K number, linking into TEP, possibly somewhere over France or Spain. OR, and this seems a bit bonkers, F-layer propagation.
Could there have been some F-layer propagation? Probably not, but then the sun spot number has been surprisingly high. If so, will there be more?
So my current assumption is that it is Es linking into TEP. On what grounds? I cannot think of any other plausible explanation, which does not mean that there are no other plausible explanations.
TT8SN stands out as being an odd contact. Of course 50MHz activity, and any activity, is low across Africa. But 2941 contacts and only one on Central or Southern Africa shows how unusual this was. The hundreds of contacts of similar distances were ALL made during the Summer. This one was in October.
In fact, this is unique for me to work anywhere in the world outside Europe on 50MHz in October.
Unusual. Is a simple antenna and 100W the right way to try to do this again?
73 Jim GM4FVM