Record-breaking massive tropo opening into New England and Canada 9/9/20, 30 new FM logs

Radio signals from Nova Scotia were heard over 800 miles away in Northern Virginia during a massive tropospheric ducting event in the overnight hours of September 9, 2020.

The duct, which began shortly before midnight Sept. 8, also brought in sustained signals from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York with distances over 400 miles away continuously until about 11 AM.  Other DXers in New England reported receiving signals from near my home in Virginia at comparable distances, and a reader in Nova Scotia told me that she also received stations from Massachusetts during the event.

See the orange and pink area depicting the tropo duct from Virginia to Nova Scotia as reported by the Hepburn Tropo Index on Sept. 9, 2020. Click to enlarge.

I turned on my radios at 11:44 PM Sept. 8 and immediately found 98.1 WCTK, a never before-received signal from New Bedford, MA at 393 miles away, booming in with decoded HD Radio.  Soon after, I found more signals from throughout New England coming in.

The golden prize of the opening didn’t occur until 1:36 AM, when I discovered a weak signal from 103.5 CKHZ-FM Halifax, NS in Canada coming in right over local 103.5 WTOP.  CKHZ-FM, at 813 miles away, is now the furthest radio station I have received via tropospheric ducting, unseating my previous record set in 2005 by 99.9 WQRC Barnstable, MA at 420 miles away.  It also marked the first time that I received a different country on the radio dial at my home via tropo.  WTOP is a very strong local signal at 21 miles away from me, so the fact that CKHZ-FM was able to come in over it is simply amazing.  Two other Canadian stations from the Halifax area of Nova Scotia, previously-logged 95.7 CJNI-FM and 100.1 CIOO-FM, were also heard.  All in all, I received 30 new radio stations during the opening.  A list of these new stations can be found further below in this post.

The opening also gave me my first “three prong” signal–a signal that was heard separately, at different times, via the three major radio signal propagation methods: Sporadic E-Skip, meteor scatter, and tropospheric ducting.  That station is Halifax’s 100.1 CIOO-FM.  I first heard CIOO-FM via meteor scatter propagation on Sept. 20, 2006 and a few times since then via skip.  Given limitations related to propagation and distance, having a three prong signal is very rare and it took me 21 years to get one.

Tropo enhancement with signals coming in over 400 miles away as observed in this tropo duct is common in the southeastern USA and Gulf Coast, but it is unheard of in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country where I live.  DXers in New England will, occasionally, receive stations from Virginia and the Carolinas, but the reception is usually one way and I don’t benefit from it as the endpoints of the duct are usually out of range for me.  My distant receptions to north and northeast often bottom out at New York City, which is 225 miles away.  These stations are usually in for less than an hour before the duct falls apart and they disappear.  To have an all-night opening bringing signals 400-820 miles away is something that just doesn’t happen in my area.

Throughout the opening, many of my local Washington, DC and Fredericksburg, VA radio stations were fighting with New England stations for control of the frequency.  Some local signals were simply gone off the dial without a trace, with multiple distant signals coming in all at once in place of them.  The pile-up of so many signals coming in at once reminded me of the once-in-a-lifetime colossal July 6, 2004 sporadic E opening, where almost every local radio station of mine disappeared to far-away signals coming in from the Midwest.

Below is a list of the stations I received from the tropo opening, including HD Radio and RDS screenshots, which have been added to my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots Gallery page.  For brevity, I have only included previously-logged stations beyond 150 miles away that I don’t usually receive at my home during DX events.  My FM DX Log has also been updated with the new content.  Click on the audio players to hear audio from stations.

new = new station logged


new 88.9 WERS Boston, MA, college, 414 miles

new 89.7 WGBH Boston, MA, public radio, 406 miles over local W209BY

new 92.3 WPRO-FM Providence, RI, “92 Pro FM” – CHR, 375 miles

new 93.3 WSNE-FM Taunton, MA “Coast 93-3” – hot AC, 385 miles over local WFLS

93.1 WPAT-FM Paterson, NJ, “Amor 93.1” – spanish, 223 miles

new 93.7 WEEI-FM Lawrence, MA “WEEI” – sports, 424 miles

new 93.9 W230CO Seaford, DE, “La ZMX 93.9” – spanish, 91 miles over local WKYS

93.9 WNYC-FM New York, NY, public radio, 223 miles over WKYS

94.1 WHJY Providence, RI, “94 HJY” – rock, 379 miles

new 95.1 WXTK West Yarmouth, MA, talk, 424 miles

95.7 CJNI-FM Halifax, NS “News 95-7” – news, 813 miles

new 96.1 WJVC Center Moriches, NY, “My Country 96.1” – country, 283 miles

new 96.3 WEII Dennis, MA, “Cape Cod Sports Radio 96-3” – sports, 430 miles over local WHUR

new 96.7 WARW-FM Port Chester, NY, “Air 1” – religious, 242 miles

new 96.9 WBQT Boston, MA, “Hot 96-9” – urban, 413 miles

97.5 WALK-FM Patchogue, NY, “Walk 97.5” – hot AC, 271 miles

new 97.7 WKAF Brockton, MA, “The New 97-7” – classic CHR, 406 miles

97.9 WSKQ-FM New York, NY, “La Mega 97.9” – spanish, 226 miles

new 98.1 WCTK New Bedford, MA, “98.1 Cat Country” – country, 393 miles

new 98.3 WKJY Hempstead, NY, “K-Joy 98.3” – AC, 240 miles

98.7 WEPN-FM New York, NY, “ESPN Radio” – sports, 227 miles over local WMZQ

new 99.1 WPLM-FM Plymouth, MA, “Easy 99.1” – AC, 414 miles over local WDCH

new 99.7 WEAN-FM Wakefield, RI, “WPRO” – talk, 359 miles

99.9 WODE-FM Easton, PA, “99-9 The Hawk” – classic hits, 179 miles

99.9 WEZN Bridgeport, CT, “Star 99-9” – AC, 281 miles

100.1 CIOO-FM Halifax, NS, “C100” – CHR, 812 miles

new 100.7 WZLX Boston, MA, “100.7 WZLX” – classic rock, 413 miles

100.9 WKNL New London, CT, “K-Hits FM” – classic hits, 331 miles

101.3 WKCI-FM Hamden, CT, “KC 101” – CHR, 297 miles

new 101.5 WKFY East Harwich, MA, “Koffee FM” – AC, 438 miles over local WBQB

new 101.7 WBEA Southold, NY, “101-7 The Beach” – CHR, 292 miles

new 101.7 WBWL-FM Lynn, MA, “101-7 The Bull” – country, 416 miles

new 101.9 WCIB Falmouth, MA, “Cool 102” – classic hits, 405 miles

101.9 WFAN-FM New York, NY, “Sports Radio 66 and 101-9 FM The Fan” – sports, 225 miles

102.1 W271CX Milford, DE, “Cool 102-1” – classic hits, 97 miles

new 102.3 WBAB Babylon, NY, “102.3 WBAB” – classic rock, 256 miles over local WMMJ

new 102.9 WPXC Hyannis, MA, “Pixy 103” – classic rock, 421 miles

103.1 WBZO Bay Shore, NY, “103.1 Max FM” – classic hits, 250 miles

new 103.5 CKHZ-FM Halifax, NS, “Hot Country 103-5” – country, 813 miles over local WTOP

103.7 WVEI-FM Westerly, RI, “Sports Radio 103.7 WEEI” – sports, 346 miles

new 105.1 WWLI Providence, RI, “Lite Rock 105” – AC, 375 miles over local WAVA

new 105.7 WROR-FM Framingham, MA, “105.7 WROR” – classic hits, 413 miles

new 106.1 WCOD-FM Hyannis, MA, “106 WCOD’ – hot AC, 430 miles

new 106.7 WMJX Boston, MA, “Magic 106.7” – hot AC, 413 miles over local WJFK

new 107.5 WFCC-FM Chatham, MA, “Cape Classical 107.5 WFCC” – classical, 438 miles

new 107.7 WWRX Bradford, RI, “Jammin 107-7” – CHR, 342 miles over local WWWT

new 107.9 WXKS-FM Medford, MA, “Kiss 108” – CHR, 413 miles over local WLZL

107.9 WEBE Westport, CT, “WeBe 108” – hot AC, 276 miles over local WLZL

Recent FM DX: 5 new logs and several first-time RDS decodes

The past month or so has been fairly quiet at my home in Northern Virginia in terms of FM DXing.  Constant storms and unfavorable weather conditions paved the way for non-existent DX outside of regular, garden-variety enhancement of signals within 100 miles.

I realized that I never posted about a few new FM logs received two months ago.  Exceptional tropospheric enhancement brought in signals up over 300 miles away to the south–a rare event nowadays–during the late morning hours on July 16.  103.1 FM at my home during most tropo events is WRNR Grasonville, MD, at 61 miles away.  Instead of WRNR’s AAA format, I heard oldies music while tuning by.  I then caught a legal ID from 103.1 WLQC Sharpsburg, NC, a new log at 189 miles. .

Click on the link below to hear audio from 103.1 WLQC Sharpsburg, NC, 189 miles away

Shortly afterward, I tuned past 91.3 FM and saw an immediate RDS decode from new log WHQR from Wilmington, NC, 317 miles away.

WHQR and WLQC were added to my FM DX Log. WHQR’s screenshot was added to my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots gallery.

A few days later, on July 19, I took a day trip to nearby Fredericksburg, VA.  While there, I heard two new signals: 91.5 W218CV and 106.3 W292EF, both from Fredericksburg.  Both stations aired a religious format and were new since my last visit to the area several years ago.  Since Fredericksburg is less than 30 miles away from my home, I am adding these new logs to my FM DX Log.

I was in South Riding, VA on September 7.  I found translator 104.5 W283DG Sterling, VA, a recent sign-on and new signal that I had hoped to log at some point, relaying nearby 1500 WFED’s Federal News Radio programming.  Since South Riding is only 21 miles NW of my home, I added W283DG to my FM DX Log and its screenshot to my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots gallery.

RDS from 104.5 W283DG Sterling, VA, 7 miles from car radio in Sterling, VA

In the early morning hours of September 8, a very brief, but strong, tropo duct brought in New York, NY’s 92.3 WNYL, 97.9 WSKQ-FM, 101.1 WCBS-FM (under local WWDC), and 102.7 WNEW-FM at around 225 miles away.  Trenton, NJ’s 101.5 WKXW also briefly came in over local WBQB with HD Radio at 177 miles away. The furthest signal received during the opening was previously-logged 99.9 WEZN Bridgeport, CT, at 281 miles.

During this opening, RDS from 97.9 WSKQ-FM and 102.7 WNEW-FM decoded for the first time on my radios.

I also added a new HD Radio screenshot from 101.5 WKXW.

2020 FM E-Skip Year in Review

The 2020 Sporadic E season has come to an end.  While the season concluded with a few surprising things, it was largely a disappointment, on par with recent years.

Sporadic E is a method of signal propagation that, when in effect, allows broadcast signals, especially those in the FM broadcast band of 88.1-107.9 MHz, to be received up to 1500 miles away with clear local reception. It can happen any time of the year, but it is most common during the summer months.

READ MY PREVIOUS YEARS’ E-SKIP SEASON REVIEWS DATING BACK TO 2011

After reading about other DXers recording large portions of the radio band RF during sporadic E via their software-defined radios, I decided to upgrade my equipment shortly before the season started in May so I could do the same.  This upgrade gave me the ability to record an almost 10 MHz “swath” of FM (i.e. 88.1 to roughly 97.3 FM) for over a full day nonstop with the ability to rewind and listen to every single frequency in that range like a DVR, increasing my chances of hearing new logs via Sporadic E.  This method replaced my previous ability using two physical radios to record two individual FM frequencies in hopes of finding skip.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.  The 2020 Sporadic E season began in May with

FM E-Skip opening 7/14/20 into Florida and possibly Cuba

A very brief sporadic E opening brought in a confirmed signal from Florida and a suspected one from Cuba to my home in Northern Virginia on July 14.  At 12:37 PM, a spanish talk or news signal faded in on 92.9 FM very weakly with deep fades.  I was unable to get a positive ID, but I suspected it to be from Cuba.  At the same time, on 93.5 FM I heard a dance station fade in called “Revolution 93.5.”  This “Revolution” signal could’ve been one of three simulcasts that broadcast the format: 93.5 WZFL Islamorada, FL, 93.5 WBGF Belle Glade, FL, or 93.5 W228BY Miami, FL.  I have previously logged both WZFL and WBGF when they were under unique, non-simulcasted formats, so the lack of a true ID during this opening wasn’t really a big deal.  The opening itself lasted about 1 minute total within about 10 minutes of time.

FM E-Skip opening 7/5/20 into AL, FL, and Canada; 1 new FM log

Sporadic E returned twice on July 5, 2020, bringing into Northern Virginia FM signals from Alabama, Florida, and the Canadian Maritimes. The opening into the Deep South region of the US happened around midday, while the second opening into Canada occurred later in the evening.

I missed the opening into Alabama and Florida in its entirety, but I had my Airspy R2 SDR recording all frequencies from 88.1-97.1 FM.  While going over the unattended recordings, I found skip was first noted at 12:07 PM with an unidentified Christian contemporary music station on 89.5 FM.  Like most openings this year, the July 5 opening was weak and short-lived, bringing in about 2 minutes of skip cumulative until about 12:34 PM.  The MUF (maximum usable frequency), or highest frequency skip was observed on was 93.5 FM, although there’s a chance it could’ve gone higher than what frequencies I was recording.

E-Skip returned at 7:50 PM into Quebec and New Brunswick and I was able to DX the opening from beginning to end.  This is the first opening of 2020 to happen in the evening hours–something that was extremely common up until a few years ago.  Signals, much like the earlier opening, were weak but were, for once, sustained and listenable without the peek-a-boo “here one second, gone the next” signals that have plagued FM Es this year.  RDS was easily decoded from several signals, as seen below.  The skip stayed in FM for about 12 minutes cumulative until 8:24 PM with a MUF of 102.1.

My streak of luck this year continues since I somehow, yet again, managed to log a new station out of the most unlikely of weak openings.  I identified new log 89.5 WGTF from Alabama solely by its RDS decode.  I have updated my DX Logs and RDS/HD Radio Screenshots pages with the new content listed below.

new = new station logged

First opening into Alabama and Florida:

88.1 religious
89.1 WSMR Sarasota, FL, classical, 852 miles

89.5 Christian contemporary
new 89.5 WGTF Dothan, AL, “Bible Broadcasting Network” – religious, 689 miles

93.5 country

Second opening into Canada:

89.1 CJBR-FM Rimouski, QC, “ICI Radio Canada Premiere” – french public radio, 788 miles

89.5 CJBR-FM-1 Riviere-Du-Loup, QC, “ICI Radio Canada Premiere” – french public radio, 732 miles

91.5 french
92.3 french
94.3 CBAL-FM-5 Edmunston, NB, “ICI Musique” – french public radio

98.1 “ICI Radio Canada Premiere” – french public radio, unable to ID due to multiple affiliates, suspected CBSI-FM Sept-Iies, QC
102.1 “ICI Radio Canada Premiere” – french public radio, unable to ID due to multiple affiliates, suspected CBGA-FM Matane, QC

FM E-Skip opening 6/21/20 into AR, LA, MS, TN; 3 new FM logs

Sporadic E hit Northern Virginia again on June 21, with a short, but somewhat strong, opening bringing in stations from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.  Skip was first observed on 88.9 FM at 4:26 PM when RDS from WMSB from northern Mississippi decoded.  I tuned up one frequency and heard Nashville’s 89.1 WECV in local advertisements.  By that time, I noticed the skip dissipating.  While I was DXing WMSB and WECV, my Airspy R2 software-defined radio (SDR) was recording every FM frequency from 88.1 to 97.1.  Upon later review of the recordings, I found that several other signals from the region came in around the same time that WMSB and WECV did.  One station, which I did not positively identify but am almost certain it is 94.5 KJIW-FM after hearing the station in 2019 during a trip to Memphis, came in off and on until 4:37 PM.  At that point, the opening ended, resulting in about 3 minutes of cumulative skip.

Even with minimal skip on June 21, I still managed to get three new FM logs–something that is unheard of.  The 2020 FM Es season to date, much like the 2018 season, has definitely been quantity over quality.  In years’ past, I have had strong, sustained FM signals coming in from other parts of the country for hours on end, with the stations coming in right over my local radio stations.  For example, look at this opening from June 25, 2018, when I received dozens of signals in a car in Connecticut while on vacation, or this opening from July 16, 2016, where I received 13 new FM logs, many with HD Radio decodes, from the upper Midwest.  That is how Sporadic E should be every year.  Huge openings with countless signals coming in faster than you can handle.  2020, however, has been the complete opposite–weak bursts of signals here and there for a few minutes before it is gone.  Without an SDR, I would not have logged several of the new stations I have heard this summer, as the signals were coming in all at the same time.

I have updated my FM DX Log and HD Radio/RDS Screenshots page with the new content listed below.  Here is what I heard on June 21:

new = new station logged

88.1 religious
new 88.9 WMSB Byhalia, MS, “AFR” – religious, 737 miles

new 89.1 WECV Nashville, TN, “Bott Radio Network” – religious, 548 miles

89.5 christian contemporary music
90.3 public radio
93.5 KBFC Forrest City, AR, “93.5 KBFC” – country, 799 miles
93.7 KXKS-FM Shreveport, LA, “Kiss Country 93-7” – country, 1020 miles
94.1 country
new 94.5 KJIW-FM Helena, AR, religious, area Es, 777 miles

FM E-Skip opening 6/18/20 into AR, OK, TX

In a stunning move this Sporadic E season, skip returned for a second time within a week on June 18 in an opening that would’ve been considered garden variety years ago.  Yet, for the under-performing 2020 season, it remains the best opening this year, with signals sticking around long enough to actually hear an identification.  I missed this opening in its entirety, but I had my Airspy R2 SDR recording all frequencies from 88.1-97.1 FM.  Skip was first noted on 93.5 FM at 10:39 AM, with an unidentified religious station coming in.  Shortly afterward, signals from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas were heard for about 15 minutes sustained between that time and 11:23 AM.  Most of the signals were weak and none decoded RDS, although one signal (92.5 KZPS) was strong enough to briefly overpower semi-local 92.5 WINC.  Although I was unable to monitor above 97.1 FM in my unattended SDR recordings, the highest frequency I observed skip on during the opening was 94.9 FM.

Here’s what was heard from my radio in Northern Virginia during the opening.  All positively-identified stations have been received here previously:

88.1 talk
88.9 “Air 1” – ccm, exact signal unID
89.1 public radio
89.5 KVNE Tyler, TX, “89.5 KVNE” – ccm, 1091 miles
89.5 public radio
91.3 three signals: jazz, religious, and ccm
92.5 KZPS Dallas, TX, “Lone Star 92.5” – classic rock, 1180 miles, over semi-local 92.5 WINC
92.9 KVRE Hot Springs Village, AR, local ads, 917 miles
92.9 KBEZ Tulsa, OK, local ads, 1045 miles
93.5 religious
94.1 spanish (received on 94.159 due to IBOC interference from local 93.9 WKYS – station likely KLNO)
94.5 KZMJ Gainesville, TX “Majic 94-5” – urban AC, 1145 miles
94.9 country

FM Es opening 6/15/20 into MS: 1 new FM log

The 2020 Sporadic E season so far has been highly unusual.  Almost all of the dozen or so openings to date have been favoring the western half of the United States–areas that usually see maybe one or two openings per year, if that.  At the same time, skip on the eastern half of the US, where I am located, is almost nonexistent.  It’s a complete 180 from normal.  I had one opening into Canada for about five minutes on May 30, and on June 15 I had my second, a very brief opening into the deep south of the United States.

While DXers in nearby east coast states reported strong, sustained FM Es on June 15, I had nothing.  I heard a fadeup on 92.9 FM at about 7:15 PM with a local ad for a business along Interstate 10, which is in the southern portion of the US.  I had my Airspy R2 SDR recording all frequencies between 88.1 and 97.5 FM and after checking frequency to frequency, I found one small fade-up of an unidentified religious station on 88.1 FM.  I then hit the jackpot at 7:25 PM, when I heard an unscheduled legal ID from 93.5 WHJT in Mississippi.  I first logged WHJT in 2009 when it was licensed to Clinton, MS, 854 miles away at 6kw.  Since my 2009 logging, I found out that the station moved its transmitter to a location 847 miles away and they also changed their city of license to Kearney Park, MS.  Per WTFDA logging guidelines, the new transmitter location, distance, and city of license mean that I can count this logging of WHJT as a new signal since it is, technically, broadcasting from a different location.  WHJT came in and out weak almost sounding like tropo for about a full minute before disappearing.

Click below to hear the legal ID from 93.5 WHJT Kearney Park, MS:

I have added this new station to my FM DX Log.

Confirmed: HD Radio signals can now have long text IDs

Prior to 2019, whenever I would tune to local 96.3 WHUR Washington, DC, I would see the station’s callsign, “WHUR-FM” appear on my Sony XDR-F1HD‘s radio’s screen when the station’s HD Radio signal decoded, as seen below.  Stations in the United States can display a four-character identification, which most stations utilize to display their callsign, such as WTOP or KRBE.  Some stations, instead, display their station name, such as “BEAT” or “JACK.”  Regardless, the station could also display the “-FM” suffix at the end of their ID if they so chose.

But in May 2019, I noticed the HD callsign on 96.3 WHUR was no longer visible on my radio’s screen when the HD Radio signal decoded:

This was peculiar, because up until now, I never saw an HD Radio station decode without a text ID.  It was one of the few pluses of DXing with an HD Radio receiver.  At the same time, my Insignia NS-HD01A (left below) and a Toyota car radio (right below) that I checked both displayed a different HD text identification: “WHUR HD.”

Shortly after this revelation, I surmised that newer HD Radio receivers like the two pictured above had the ability to display a custom length HD text ID, while older radios, such as the Sony XDR-F1HD further up in this post, could not, hence the blank space where the HD text ID should appear.

In March, I noticed that nearby 103.7 WURV from Richmond, VA decoded HD Radio on my XDR-F1HD radio with a blank text ID, just like WHUR.  It wasn’t until the early morning hours of June 2 when my NS-HD01A radio decoded HD Radio from WURV that I realized they now have a 10-character HD text ID: “103.7 Play,” which is also the station’s name.

HD Radio debuted in the United States in the mid-2000s.  Until now, all stations had up to a four character HD Radio text ID.  My reception of WURV on June 2 confirms that stations nationwide are now rolling out a longer station ID.  This should be of minimal concern to those listening to HD Radio in their cars, as those radios are, more or less, fairly new.  The late model car radios should easily decode the longer text IDs.  The issue comes with those who may have an early generation HD Radio receiver, as the affected station(s) may no longer show any identification at all on-screen.  This is a downside for FM DXing, since we can now no longer fully rely on the station’s text ID for a positive identification.