Minor tropo on August 5 brought in two new stations on their new post-2019 transition channels. Strong signals from Philadelphia’s 28 WCAU and 30 KYW-TV came in for the first time during the early morning hours of August 5 with previously-logged 17 WPHL. KYW-TV, on its previous pre-repack channel of TV 26, was an occasional visitor. WCAU, on the other hand, is an all-new log. The new logs and screenshots below have been added to my DX Logs.
Digital TV in the United States is currently undergoing a repack to “realign” the broadcast band dial, in the process removing TV channels 39-50 from the broadcast band and causing many stations to change their OTA broadcast channel. According to the FCC, the reallocation of TV spectrum is being done in phases, with the first set of stations making the switch last year. The entire repack is expected to be done by summer 2020. Mid-Atlantic region TV signals, including my local Washington, DC, and semi-local Baltimore, MD stations, were mandated to switch as part of Phase 4 of the repack by August 2.
While this simply means a TV re-scan for casual viewers to receive their local TV stations at their new dial positions, the repack provides an interesting situation for DXers. DXers may receive new logs that they would have otherwise never received on a channel previously occupied by a local station. This is especially true if a DXer lives near markets operating on different phases of the repack, given the distant signals would be moving their channels at different times.
I have been monitoring the TV band the past few weeks as some of my local signals moved to their new channels. I’ve found some interesting receptions: some stations, like 31 WETA-TV as seen below, were testing on their new channel before the Aug. 2 deadline while their pre-repack TV 27 channel was still on-air (their TV 27 has since shut down). Richmond’s 42 WCVE-TV was still on its pre-repack channel as of August 4, which allowed me to log it for the first time after local 42 WMPT moved to TV 21. I also noticed several Norfolk, VA area stations (16 WHRO, 20 WUND, 29 WVBT, 40 WTKR, and 50 WGNT) were broadcasting on their pre-repack channels past the Aug. 2 deadline. 24 WDCO-CD is an all-new log. Although WDCO-CD’s city of license is over 70 miles southwest of my home, its transmitter is in downtown Washington, DC.
For logging purposes, I consider a previously-logged station broadcasting on a new OTA channel as a new TV log. A list of my new logs related to the repack are below. The screenshots seen below have been added to my TV DX Logs.
8 WUPV-DT Ashland, VA, 63 miles, 30 KW, “CW Richmond” – CW (moved from TV 47)
21 WMPT Annapolis, MD, 43 miles, 1000 KW, “MPT” – PBS (moved from TV 42)
24 WDCO-CD Woodstock, VA, 22 miles, 15 KW, Ind.
25 WNUV Baltimore, MD, 50 miles, 5000 KW, “CW Baltimore” – CW (moved from TV 40)
31 WETA-TV Washington, DC, 22 miles, 73 KW, “WETA” – PBS (moved from TV 27)
34 WRC-TV Washington, DC, 22 miles, 1000 KW, “NBC 4” – NBC (moved from TV 48)
35 WPXW-TV Manassas, VA, 22 miles, 1000 KW, “ION” – ION (moved from TV 35)
Sporadic E is a method of signal propagation that, when in effect, allows broadcast signals 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.
I have been DXing FM radio since 1999. Although I received my first Sporadic E signal a year later, I didn’t monitor the FM band daily for FM Es until 2006. From 2006 to 2009, I experienced hours of skip most days of the annual season, which usually falls between mid-May and July 31. I often had to put off social events because the FM band was always inundated with skip. Starting in 2009, however, things started to plummet. I received 22 FM Es openings that year, and by 2016, it was down to 8. The amount of skip heard during that time dwindled, going from 24 hours some years, to only 33 minutes total in 2017. I experienced 100 minutes of FM Es during one opening alone last year, when I was on vacation in New York. Although that opening was stunning given the annual downturn, the rest of the 2018 season was a dud, on par with 2017.
2019 was one for the record books, and not in a good way. There were four Sporadic E openings during the entire of the season. Of the four 2019 openings, only one of the them had signals that came in for more than a few seconds at a time. Overall, the 2019 season netted me two new FM logs, one of them remarkably a weak 250-watt translator. Skip was heard about 1 hour and 4 minutes total in 2019.
I used to give detailed reviews of the season’s FM Es openings, but it has gotten to the point where I can sum it up in a brief post. Hopefully there will be some respectable skip in 2020. Even though each year seems to be worse than the last, I still keep my hopes up.
Philadelphia, PA, at 144 miles away from my Virginia home, is the hardest market within my usual tropo range to get HD Radio signals from. Many of the city’s FM signals are on the same frequencies as my local Washington, DC signals. The few that aren’t are either first adjacents to my IBOC-broadcasting local stations, or they are on frequencies usually occupied by powerhouse regional stations.
Philadelphia signals usually come in with nearby Atlantic City and Delmarva signals. Oddly enough, tropo enhancement during the early morning hours of July 29 brought in Philadelphia FMs without the aforementioned coastal signals. The lack of the those signals were just enough to allow HD Radio to decode for the first time on four Philadelphia frequencies. I also got an HD Radio subdecode from another Philly station, plus RDS decodes from a few other stations. The screenshots below have been added to my Woodbridge, VA FM DX Log.
92.5 WXTU Philadelphia, PA, 15 KW, 143 miles
94.1 WIP-FM Philadelphia, PA, 16 KW, 144 miles
98.1 WOGL Philadelphia, PA, 7.3 KW, 144 miles
98.9 WUSL Philadelphia, PA, 32 KW, 144 miles
101.5 WKXW Trenton, NJ, 15.5 KW, 177 miles over local 101.5 WBQB
I spent the afternoon in Columbia, MD on July 27. While there, I updated my existing Baltimore, MD travel DX log with 11 new stations and new RDS screenshots from other stations. Click here to view the updated log.
I cannot recall the last time I had Sporadic E-Skip for two days in a row–on the weekend when I can actually DX (vs. when I am at work). Skip on July 21 was nothing like the previous day, but I did hear a few faint signals appear briefly on 88.1, 89.1, 89.5, 89.9, and 91.7. The skip started at 4:10 PM and ended at 4:38 PM, although I heard maybe 2 minutes total of skip signals during that period. All signals were brief, disappearing seconds after first heard.
I did manage to get one positive ID via RDS from previously-logged 89.1 WPAS Pascagoula, MS, at 847 miles, 60 KW. The screenshot below has been added to my DX Logs page.
The first respectable Sporadic E opening of the 2019 season was heard on July 20 in Northern Virginia.
With about an hour total of skip heard between 12:25 PM and 5:12 PM, the opening started with signals from South Florida with a MUF of 94.1. The skip disappeared at 3:30 PM. A half hour later, it returned with signals from the upper Midwest and Louisiana with a higher MUF of 106.1. Most of the signals were weak and had deep fades.
The highlight of the opening was the logging of my third translator in 20 years via FM Es, 94.1 W231CN from Florida. W231CN is the first translator via Es that I have received which decoded RDS. Local 93.9 WKYS seemed to be on low power during the opening, as their HD Radio signal was off-air and they weren’t running RDS. This was likely how I was able to log W231CN, as 94.1 is usually covered up by WKYS’ digital IBOC sideband.
Minor tropospheric enhancement on July 20 brought in RDS from 96.9 WFPG Atlantic City, NJ, a station previously logged at my home at 158 miles away. I have received RDS from WFPG in the past, but not from the SDR Sharp program.
I noticed that WFPG has updated their PI code in their RDS display. When I received RDS from the station on 10/5/17, the PI code was displayed as 1368, which incorrectly rendered a callsign of KBHO on capable radios. The PI code as received on July 20 seen below, 6368, now correctly renders to WFPG.
The screenshot below has been added to my DX Logs page.
A watched pot never boils. The same can be said with DXing, because a radio you can see will not receive Sporadic E.
Murphy’s Law is generally understood to be “whatever may happen, will happen.” Murphy’s Law can happen at any given time, such as a printer breaking just before a term paper is due, or someone getting sick right before leaving for vacation. I’ve written about Murphy’s Law and its effect on the DXing hobby. It seems to be most prevalent during the Sporadic E season, which typically spans from May to August, with peaks in June and July. Whenever I am near a radio, there is rarely skip. The moment I am away from a radio and cannot DX, FM Es soars to the top of the band, without fail. This is especially true so far with the 2019 FM Es season, where I have only received a shocking 45 seconds of skip since May. Compare that to 2014 when I received a cumulative 1471 minutes, or 24.35 hours of FM Es during the entire season.
On July 18, reports of FM Es to the top of the band in the eastern United States, including my area, were plentiful during the 6:00 PM hour, per reports on the TV/FM Skip Log. I was leaving work at that time and couldn’t be near a radio until about an hour later. Halfway into my commute home, the nearby DXers who were able to benefit from the FM Es opening reported on the propagation logger that the skip was gone. As expected, my radio had deadband conditions upon me turning it on at about 7:10 PM. I missed the FM Es opening.
There was some hope, because I left my computer on at home and I knew it was recording off two of my radios, one set to 92.1 and the other on 93.5–two open frequencies in my region. Knowing my unattended recordings were always two “chances” of getting in on a missed FM Es opening was always the ‘silver lining,’ so to speak, of when skip would happen while I was away.
I came home at about 7:55 PM to find my computer stuck at the login screen. I logged in and didn’t see my recording program running. It apparently rebooted with Windows Updates overnight, and I didn’t notice it before I left for work in the morning. In other words, I missed the live opening, and my computer missed it too, meaning I have nothing to show for what was likely a spectacular opening had I been able to DX it. Murphy strikes again!
89.7 FM at my home is usually occupied by an 8-watt translator only a mile away, W209BY Woodbridge, VA. W209BY is usually strong, although other signals do overpower it at times. One of the stations that I sometimes hear on 89.7 over W209BY is WXMD California, MD, 7 KW at 40 miles away. I first logged WXMD in 2016, but I noticed it was running RDS for the first time earlier this year on the Sangean HDR-14 radio. On July 14, I received RDS from WXMD for the first time on my Sony XDR-S10HDiP radio. This screenshot was added to my DX Logs page.