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Old 2009-07-08, 09:26 PM   #1
kingborgie
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Cool Radio DXing, Tropo, Odd Reception, Weird Weather Effects

I was sure I was losing my mind today on my drive home from Swift Current to Ponteix Saskatchewan all of a sudden our local Fm Rock station 94.1 kept switching between "let it be" by the beatles to a Nickleback song then I started changing station and low and behold there was something on EVERY station I had to go to a friends house to show him just to reassure myself that i was in fact Sane. I did pick up the names of a couple including WOZZ in new england WI and Greenbay which is 2,000 KM away, Absolutely wild and exciting.
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Old 2009-07-08, 11:22 PM   #2
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Default Awesome FM Radio DX

Hi kingborgie, I have family in Eastend and Shaunavon.

FM radio skip is very very similar to TV skip, but what you got was a once-in-a-lifetime experience because the Prairies don't get the same sort of tropo effects as Southern Quebec and Southern Ontario do. I hope you will email the engineering staff of those stations to let them know about your amazing FM Radio DX!
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Old 2009-07-09, 09:28 AM   #3
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FM-DX is regular here in Southern Ontario, its fun and exciting.. A few weeks ago it was Miami & Tampa Bay and then a few days later I had CKEC-FM from New Glasgow, NS among other stations from Boston (The first time ever I have received stations from out east).
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Old 2009-07-09, 10:32 AM   #4
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One time; I forget the exact circumstances but it was the early/mid 1990s I recall, I was receiving a couple stations from Texas, in mid/southwestern Ontario. For analog TV,the farthest I got was Toledo (WUAB), for digital TV, the northern tip of lower Michigan, or Detroit.

During my high school days, I rather regularly got Buffalo to most of eastern Michigan on FM, and on occasion Detroit and Toronto.
This was all mostly with a combination of automotive FM tuners and my "goalpost" FM antenna, which was basically a folded dipole with the top elements pointing up at each end (resembling a football goalpost) rather than joined together.
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Old 2009-07-09, 05:17 PM   #5
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Default Sporadic-E

This is the King of Skip.

Sporadic-E is the hardest to catch usually because of it's random and instant nature. Wild ranges in signal strength, short lived, but because it comes from a higher inclined angle, those in valleys often do better as reduced signals of nearby cities often are more easily covered up by stations via sporadic-E skip.

ZBM Hamilton Bermuda. circa 1981. Great catch from Dundas, Ontario.
And I got the entire newscast on cassette. :-)

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Old 2009-07-14, 04:01 PM   #6
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Sporadic E-skip, which is what kingborgie experienced, is a different thing than tropo (tropospheric propagation).

In Sporadic E-skip, FM and TV signals reflect off highly-ionized patches in the E Layer of the Earth's ionosphere. You can receive signals from thousands of kilometres away, but they typically fade in and out quickly and are often badly distorted. E-skip happens mostly around the solstices: in May, June, and July, around the summer solstice, and a weaker peak centered on the winter solstice in December.

In tropo, FM and TV signals get trapped between layers of warm and colder air in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere) and can be carried like that for long distances. Tropo typically operates over shorter distances (a few hundred kilometres) but the tend to be stable and may be quite strong, or weak. Tropo is dependent on the weather, and tends to happen more often in warm weather or when there are temperature inversions.

Both happen more often than you'd guess, but most people never notice it because they never tune their FM radios away from the stations they usually listen to. It's only when the signals are so strong that they start to override those local stations that these unusual propagation effects get noticed by most people.
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Old 2009-07-14, 07:27 PM   #7
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And to add to GregS's excellent post, there is also a tendency to have greater amounts of sporadic-E skip at times of solar maximum, but not a hard and fast rule. We are currently at the transition of solar cycle 23 to 24 (read: solar minimum) and the MUF (maximum usable frequency) is low. As cycle 24 starts to ramp up, watch the lower Canadian analogue TV channels as a clue, then check FM at the bottom and work up. When this skip mode is intense, I've used the amateur 2m (144-148 MHz) for long range communications. The MUF has been said to reach 200MHz, but I've never observed this, and I would think it would be fleeting indeed.

Tropo, temperature inversions, ducting are as GregS has described. And those can be a lot of fun too.

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Old 2009-07-14, 11:15 PM   #8
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Just curious, would you need a high-powered antenna to experience skips if they happen? (assuming one were tuning to unused frequencies to see if it was occurring).
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Old 2009-07-15, 07:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BGY11 View Post
Just curious, would you need a high-powered antenna to experience skips if they happen? (assuming one were tuning to unused frequencies to see if it was occurring).
Nope! I've had Sporadic-E on different tuners, ranging from a Sansui TU-9900 which has wide / narrow bandwidth control (a top of the line home stereo separate tuner) to cheap "Walkman" style radios. The following will really help:

1-Great receiver sensitivity
2-Great receiver selectivity
3-NO OVERLOAD caused by nearby broadcast transmitters
4-Low internal receiver generated noise

Ironically, the more out in the boonies you are with fewer to no locals makes this facet of the hobby more easy to do. I remember a summer in Belleville Ontario in '85, and with a shirt-pocket digital FM radio (an Aiwa FM-AM mini one at that) I was getting Texas and Oklahoma just before dinnertime. Kinda neat.

My first experience of Sporadic-E was as a very young person flipping through TV channels of our OTA setup and getting a station from New York, NY, crystal clear on CH 5. (that was before CBC abandoned CH 6 and moved to 5). That was from Dundas, Ontario. I went WOW. That did it. Once the DX bug bites, you're infected for life.

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Last edited by CamDAB; 2009-07-15 at 08:01 AM. Reason: CBC clarification
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Old 2009-07-16, 07:22 PM   #10
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Hmm, guess I'll have to play around with my Grundig G5 to see if I end up getting a skip.

Granted I'm in Calgary, so the odds are unlikely, but it's worth a shot I guess.
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Old 2009-07-16, 09:07 PM   #11
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Never say never...

Come to think of it, a lot of automotive FM radios often have the kind of receiver qualities that make this kind of DX'ing a lot of fun. Just one minor detail: Just don't do it while driving! :-)

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Old 2009-07-16, 09:32 PM   #12
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Living near several high-power FM transmitters, I don't get skip very often, but occasionally I get a few distant FM stations. Usually the furthest I get is Detroit or Toronto though. Only once have I gotten a distant TV signal, and it was a Channel 2 from Florida, complete with colour.

In Muskoka I once got an FM station from Buffalo. Can't remember the calls, format or frequency though.
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Old 2009-07-16, 09:42 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjjl View Post
In Muskoka I once got an FM station from Buffalo. Can't remember the calls, format or frequency though.
With a hand held FM radio from the western end of Lake Joesph (Mactier/Parry Sound area) on a high point of land I have had (tropo / inversion) in the early morning I've received over various times CHEZ Ottawa, numerous Buffalo, Hamilton, Erie, and Detroit and London stations. Notice I didn't mention Toronto. My guess is that the CN Tower is ABOVE most of the inversion layers and thus the signals don't get trapped within the layers of warm/cold air.

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Old 2009-07-17, 12:36 AM   #14
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Funny, this thread. I was driving home from our little town on Monday and pressed the seek button on the radio in my new to me (old-1997) pickup. We get 5 fm stations here, and 2 of them are CBC1. I was getting a new station every time I pushed it, at least 5 in spots that are blank on the dial. Never did get any call letters. By the time I got home, everything was back to normal. There was heavy overcast at the time and we're in the Rocky Mountain trench. I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't pushed seek. I haven't programmed the presets yet.
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Old 2009-07-17, 02:55 AM   #15
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I just spent a few minutes scanning the FM dial on my Grundig G5 with its built in antenna.

I don't know if this even counts as tropo, but I was receiving the following stations tonight:

91.3 - CKUA (Drumheller) -- 140km
95.5 - KG Country (Red Deer) -- 145km
96.5 - CKFM (Olds) -- 95km away
107.7 - The River (Lethbridge) -- 300km away

The first three were coming in crystal clear, and the last was a bit staticky, but still listenable. I'm definitely surprised with capturing that Lethbridge station, as even AM stations from there are hard to receive clearly unless it's at night.
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