FM Es opening 8/1/18 into Kansas

As soon as I wrote about the lack of FM Es in the later months of the summer, a brief Sporadic E opening hit the dials outside of the usual “9-5 M-F” schedule that FM Es has largely followed this year.  At 7:22 PM, an unidentified NPR station came in on 89.1 FM, and by 7:35 PM, 92.3 KKGQ and 93.5 KDGS, both relogs, briefly came in with an unidentified AC station on 98.1.  The opening, which had signals for about 2 minutes cumulatively, quickly dissipated without any fanfare, with a MUF of 98.1.

Relogs heard:

92.3 KKGQ Newton, KS, e-skip, 1089 miles
93.5 KDGS Andover, KS, e-skip, 1088 miles

2018 FM E-Skip Year in Review

It started out with a bang but ended without fanfare.  The 2018 Sporadic E-Skip Season is no more, but even though this season has failed to live up to what I thought it would be, I still feel like it was a step in the right direction.

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.

When I started to monitor daily for FM Es in 2006, living in the summer months usually meant having to plan everything around an always-present Sporadic E opening.  I’ve turned down social invitations and put off errands countless times because a mammoth FM Es opening was brewing on the dial.  Beginning in 2009, Sporadic E came in less and less, getting progressively got worse each year until it hit a lowpoint in 2017, where I only received 33 minutes total of Sporadic E the entire season — compared to 1471 minutes in 2014.

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

On the surface, 2018 seemed to be the first skip season in years where things started to turn around.  This year, I received 347 total minutes of skip with 5 new FM logs from 8 openings.  During this season, I logged my 1900th FM station, and 4 of my 5 new FM logs were received from one unattended opening on 6/6/18.

I was on vacation on June 16-24, 2018.  During that time I had two FM Es openings: one on 6/20/18 while I was outside of New York, NY, which lasted 100 minutes and brought in 26 stations from the Midwest and Upper Midwest.  This opening was very strong, with many distant signals toppling the local NYC FM stations in a manner that I haven’t seen since 2016.  Another respectable opening into the same general area was also observed on 6/26/18 while I was in Providence, RI, with a few RDS decodes but not as strong as the NYC opening.  Within the same time period and weeks thereafter, reports of top-of-the-band FM Es from other DXers flooded into

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2 minutes of FM Es on 7/20/18

Another bland Sporadic E opening was picked up on my unattended recordings on June 20.  I have no idea if this was a good opening or not, since I was at work when it happened.  I had my two radios recording 92.1 and 101.7 FM.  At 12:34 PM, an unidentified religious station came in on 92.1 for 1 minute, and at 12:40 PM, an unidentified country station was heard on 101.7.  The Es signals disappeared at 12:40 PM.

Tropo opening 7/20/18. 2 new FM logs

A fairly normal tropo opening during the early morning hours on July 20 into the Norfolk, VA area brought in an extra surprise: two new FM stations.  I turned my antenna to local 97.1 WASH’s null point expecting classic hits “97-1 The Wave” WAVD from nearby Ocean City, but instead I heard Christian Contemporary music.  The station identified as an affiliate of “K-Love,” which matches to 97.1 WYND.  Unfortunately, my audio recorder was not running when the station IDed, and WYND left just as fast as it arrived under WASH’s strong signal.  Shortly afterward, I heard sports music on 102.7 FM.  I figured it could’ve been a previously-logged station airing a local sports program, but something made me keep on listening.  Instead, the station identified as “99-5 and 102-7 ESPN,” which is a 250-watt translator from central Virginia.  My DX Log and RDS/HD Radio Screenshots pages have been updated with the new content below.

New logs:

97.1 WYND Hatteras, NC, tropo, 219 miles over local WASH

102.7 W274BX Petersburg, VA, tropo, 98 miles

First-time RDS screenshots from relogs:

101.7 WLQM Franklin, VA, tropo, 137 miles

20 seconds of FM Es on July 16

A very brief sporadic E opening was heard in my car on July 16 just outside of my Woodbridge, VA home.  Signals below 92.1 FM became unstable at about 7:28 PM, but nothing solid was heard, until a 10-second fade-in from relog 89.1 WPAS Pascagoula, MS @ 847 miles, complete with RDS, came in and disappeared.  After WPAS left, an unID CCM signal was heard on 89.5 FM for another 10 seconds before the opening ended.

WWFD 820 AM goes all-digital in Frederick, MD

DCRTV and Radio-Online report that an AM station in the Washington, DC region has ceased analog broadcasting, becoming the first radio station in the United States to solely broadcast in digital HD Radio.

WWFD 820 Frederick, MD, which airs an AAA format as “The Gamut,” flipped the all-IBOC switch on July 16.  Since I am too far away from WWFD to receive it, I cannot verify if the station simply removed its analog frequency from its broadcast, leaving its existing digital sidebands, or if the station is broadcasting a full power digital signal on its center frequency.

The station’s move to all-digital poses an interesting situation for DXers, as it appears now that at least AM stations can apply to go all-digital.  Does this mean FM stations are next?  I wrote about the possibility of an all-digital FM band in 2013.  In that article, I predicted that such a move would both benefit and hurt the DXing hobby.  For those who aren’t familiar with the mechanics of HD Radio, a station on 95.5 FM running IBOC broadcasts its analog signal on 95.5, and its digital signal (at a lower power) on 95.3 and 95.7.  These adjacent digital “sidebands” ruin DX, as it blocks out all but the strongest distant stations on the frequencies immediately next to a local signal running HD Radio.

If the HD Radio standard supports one sole full power digital signal on the center frequency (i.e. a full power digital 95.5 FM and nothing on 95.3 and 95.7 FM), then this could positively revolutionize FM DXing, as these adjacent-to-local frequencies would, once again, be open to any DX, much like it was prior to the debut of IBOC.  On the other hand, if the FM band became digital-only, a very strong signal would be required to receive any radio station (rendering weak signals invisible to an HD Radio), much like what one experiences with digital TV DXing.

It remains to be seen if WWFD’s digital transition is the first of many to come, or if it is a one-off occurrence.

Tropo opening 7/14/18. 3 new FM logs plus more

Another great tropo duct into coastal North Carolina–the second in a week–was heard throughout the overnight hours on July 14.  The opening started with the typical summer night signals from Norfolk, VA (130 miles) and Ocean City, MD (90 miles) coming in with local-grade strength.  Quickly afterward, signals further south from the New Bern/Greenville/Jacksonville, NC area at up to 240 miles away came in, some with HD Radio.  This was when my local Washington, DC stations started to disappear, one by one, overtaken by distant North Carolina signals.  This was largely an FM-only opening.  The TV band was largely only limited to Norfolk and Richmond stations.  My DX Log and RDS/HD Radio Screenshots pages have been updated with the new content below.

New logs:

94.7 WQDR Raleigh, NC, tropo, 217 miles over local WIAD

97.7 WZKT Walnut Creek, NC, tropo, 234 miles

107.5 WAZO Southport, NC, tropo, 320 miles

New HD Radio and RDS decodes from relogs:

90.3 WHRO Norfolk, VA, tropo, 135 miles

 

92.5 WYFL Henderson, NC, tropo, 177 miles

 

93.1 WWLB Ettrick, VA, tropo, 98 miles

 

97.7 WAFL Milford, DE, tropo, 97 miles

 

98.7 WRMR Greensboro, NC, tropo, 236 miles over local WMZQ

 

99.9 WCMC Holly Springs, NC, tropo, 218 miles

 

101.9 WIKS New Bern, NC, tropo, 239 miles

 

102.7 WJJX Appomattox, VA, tropo, 126 miles

 

106.5 WSFL New Bern, NC, tropo, 251 miles

 

107.9 WNCT Greenville, NC, tropo, 228 miles over local WLZL

 

Audio from relogs:
93.3 WERO Washington, NC, 228 miles over local WFLS

2 new TV stations from 7/9/18 tropo opening

The tropo opening that brought in FM signals up to 322 miles away with two new FM logs on July 9 also brought in two new digital TV logs.  During the tropo opening, I received two weak signals on RF 17 and RF 24.  Although both had a PSIP ID, neither RF 17’s “Retro” or RF 24’s “AMGTV” matched anything I could find online.  I asked online and with the help of Trip Ericson of RabbitEars.info, he positively ID both of the stations below.  Both signals are low power, with W24EC-D only being 480 watts.  This is quite an impressive feat to receive at 212 miles away.  W24EC-D is also the first non-local digital log on TV 24, after local WNVC-DT signed off earlier this year in connection with the recent DTV repack.  My DX Log and TV Screenshots pages have been updated with the new content below.

FM Es opening 7/10/18: 1 new FM log

A fairly weak Sporadic E opening into the upper Midwest brought in FM signals from Minnesota and South Dakota to Northern Virginia on July 10.  Skip started at 5:25 PM and was heard for about 5 minutes total between that time and 5:51 PM. The signals were all short-lived, with a MUF of 98.9.  This contrasts with other DXers’ online reports of top-of-the-band skip with strong signals and HD Radio decodes.  Either way, I am glad to have received one new log from this opening, 92.1 KORN, which was identified by its RDS decode.  KORN is the first Sporadic E signal that I have received RDS from since I started to use the Airspy R2 SDR radio.  My DX Log and RDS/HD Radio Screenshots pages have been updated with the new content below.

New log:

92.1 KORN Parkston, SD, e-skip, 1128 miles

Other stations received:

unID 91.7 NPR
92.1 KLQP Madison, MN, 1065 miles
unID 93.5 classic hits
unID 97.3 CHR
unID 98.9 country