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.

First FM Es opening of 2020 into Canada; 1 new FM log

Northern Virginia’s first Sporadic E-Skip opening of 2020 was heard at my home on May 30.  I actually slept in and missed the entire opening, but I was recording all frequencies from 88.1-97.1 FM via the Airspy R2 software-defined radio, so I was able to “relive” the opening in its entirety within those frequencies later that day.  The opening started at about 11:00 AM on the dot and was fairly weak, with a few strong signal fade-ins, until about 11:52 AM.  Signals were from the Canadian Maritimes and although I was only recording up to 97.1 FM, the MUF, or maximum usable frequency (the highest frequency FM Es was observed) was 93.5 FM.  Overall, about 5 minutes of continuous skip heard throughout the hour.  I was able to identify one new station via RDS decode by its PI code: 88.9 CHNI-FM.  92.9 CFLT-FM, which also came in today with RDS, is a relog here, but this is the first time I received RDS from them via the Airspy R2.  I have updated my DX Logs and RDS/HD Radio Screenshots pages with the new content listed below.

new = new log
unID = unidentified signal

new 88.9 CHNI-FM St. John, NB, “Q88.9” – rock, 736 miles

89.1 unID public radio
89.5 unID public radio and french signals
91.3 unID public radio
92.3 unID french over semi-local 92.3 WERQ Baltimore, MD
92.9 CFLT-FM Dartmouth, NS, “92-9 Jack FM” – adult hits, 813 miles

92.9 WEZQ Bangor, ME, sports, 614 miles
92.9 unID french music, likely CKLE-FM Bathurst, NS
93.1 unID classic rock
93.5 unID music and french signals

FM Es opening 7/21/19 with signal heard from MS

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.

FM Es opening 7/20/19 with signals heard from AL, FL, KS, LA, MN, ND, NE, and SD. 2 new FM logs

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.

New stations below have a icon next to the frequency.  All new logs, as well as all RDS and HD Radio screenshots seen below, have been added to my DX Logs page.

  • 89.1 WUFT-FM Gainesville, FL, e-skip, 683 miles, 100 KW, public radio

 

  • 89.5 WAYJ Naples, FL, e-skip, 904 miles, 100 KW, “89.5 & 100.5 Way FM” – ccm

 

  • 92.1 WCTQ Venice, FL, e-skip, 850 miles, 11.5 KW, “92-1 CTQ” – country
  • 92.1 WZEW Destin, FL, e-skip, 768 miles, 25 KW, “92 Zew” – AAA
  • 92.9 KTGL Beatrice, NE, e-skip, 1044 miles, 100 KW, “92-9 The Eagle” – classic rock
  • 92.9 WBLX-FM Mobile, AL, e-skip, 810 miles, 100 KW, “93 BLX” – urban
  • 93.1 KQID-FM Alexandria, LA, e-skip, 972 miles, 100 KW, “Q93”- CHR
  • 93.5 WFDZ Perry, FL, e-skip, 690 miles, 25 KW, “Froggy 93” – country
  • 93.5 KKOT Columbus, NE, e-skip, 1094 miles, 100 KW, “Classic Hits 93.5 The Hawk” – classic hits
  • 93.7 KYEZ Salina, KS, e-skip, 1082 miles, 100 KW, “Y93.7” – country
  • 93.7 WOGK Ocala, FL, e-skip, 705 miles, 100 KW, “93.7 K-Country” – country
  • 93.7 KYWR-FM Winner, SD, e-skip, 1217 miles, 100 KW, “Magic 93” – classic rock
  • 94.1 WLLD Lakeland, FL, e-skip, 809 miles, 100 KW, “Wild 94.1” – urban
  • 94.1 KSDN-FM Aberdeen, SD, e-skip, 1181 miles, 100 KW, “94-1 The Rock” – rock
  • 95.1 KBVB Barnesville, MN, e-skip, 1106 miles, 98 KW, “95 Bob FM” – country
  • 97.9 KFNW-FM Fargo, ND, e-skip, 1157 miles, 100 KW, “Life 97.9” – religious
  • 99.9 KTDY Lafayette, LA, e-skip, 1011 miles, 100 KW, “99.9 KTDY” – AC
  • 103.3 KUSB Hazleton, ND, e-skip, 1308 miles (car radio in Woodbridge, VA), 100 KW, “103-3 US Country” – country
  • 106.1 KQLX-FM Lisbon, ND, e-skip, 1163 miles (car radio in Woodbridge, VA), 50 KW, “Thunder 106-1 & 98-3” – country

Missing an FM Sporadic E opening: Murphy’s Law at its finest

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!

 

FM Es opening 7/7/19. First time RDS decode from Newfoundland’s 92.1 CJOZ

The 2019 Sporadic E season has been a huge bust so far in Northern Virginia.  Before today, I only had one opening, 45 seconds of unidentified signals almost a month ago on June 8.  On July 7 for about three minutes cumulative during the first half of the 8PM hour, I received an Es signal from 92.1 CJOZ-FM Bonavista, NL, at 1382 miles.  I first received CJOZ-FM on 6/26/09.  CJOZ-FM’s signal was very weak and no other stations came in during the opening.  I did receive RDS for the first time from CJOZ-FM:

 

I have added the above RDS screenshot to my FM DX Logs page where I have hundreds of other similar RDS/HD Radio screenshots.

The interesting thing about this opening was that CJOZ was only received with unamplified rabbit ears in my office downstairs (3rd floor of my building), while my amplified Yagi antenna upstairs (4th and top floor) didn’t pick up CJOZ at all.  I guess this is because the windows in my office face north toward Canada, and my Yagi antenna upstairs doesn’t have a clear line of sight in that direction.

Also of note, this is the second FM Es opening in 2019 that happened after 8:00 PM local time.  In the past few years, FM Es has largely followed the “Monday-Friday, 9AM-5PM” business hours model, meaning I always missed it because it only happened when I was away from my radios and at work.  I’ve been able to DX both (albeit very minor) FM Es openings so far this year from home on the weekend.