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.
88.9 WMSB Byhalia, MS, “AFR” – religious, 737 miles
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
94.5 KJIW-FM Helena, AR, religious, area Es, 777 miles
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.
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.
The trees are slowly getting their leaves. The weather is getting warmer by the day. With this becomes increased FM and TV signal enhancement. In the early morning hours of March 30, I found my usual regional FM signals from nearby markets within 140 miles away (Norfolk, VA, Ocean City, MD, and Richmond, VA) coming in briefly, some signals strong enough to decode HD Radio. We still have some time before some great DX openings occur, but it is great to see things slowly opening up.
Prior to my reception of common visitor 103.7 WURV Richmond, VA, at 82 miles away from my home on March 30, their HD Radio callsign displayed on my radios as “WURV,” as seen below in my archived HD Radio screenshots.
On March 30, I saw the station changed their ID to “103.” as seen in the screenshot below.
I wonder if WURV upgraded to a seven-character custom HD Radio callsign ID, much like my local 96.3 WHUR Washington, DC recently did. I only picked up WURV’s HD signal last night on the Sangean HDR-14, which cuts off any HD callsign that’s longer than 4 characters. I will have to see if my other radios, such as the Insignia NS-HD01, shows a longer HD callsign. Once I know, I’ll report here.
While scanning the FM dial the other day, I noticed that HD Radio has returned to 91.9 WGTS Takoma Park, MD, a local radio station of mine. WGTS, which serves the Washington, DC area, first turned on its HD Radio signal in 2015, but turned it off in 2018. The station was analog-only in the meantime before IBOC was turned back on this year.
The return of HD Radio on WGTS is a downside toward the hobby of DXing in my area. While WGTS was analog-only, 92.1 FM was wide open for receiving distant radio signals. Now that WGTS resumed HD broadcasting, 92.1 FM is now blocked out for regular DXing, since one of WGTS’ two digital sidebands is broadcasted on 92.1 FM. Only strong DX will come in on 92.1 FM over WGTS’ digital sideband in the future. The same thing applies to 91.7 FM, the frequency of WGTS’ other digital sideband, but 91.7 FM was desensitized to distant DX signals at my home already, as nearby 91.5 WBJC Baltimore, MD’s 91.7 digital HD sideband often comes in strongly, also blocking DX on that frequency.
One of the few full-power radio stations in the Washington, DC area that did not run RDS now does. I first noticed RDS running on 99.1 WDCH-FM Bowie, MD, a local station of mine, in 2006 when I bought my first RDS-capable radio. I’m not sure how long the station ran RDS before that. However, in 2016 when the signal flipped from news to business news, the RDS disappeared. While scanning the FM dial on December 29, 2019, I found the station was once again broadcasting RDS. I have added the RDS screenshots below to my Woodbridge, VA RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page.
The amazing abundance of tropo enhancement in the summer/fall of 2019 has completely made up for the severe lack of Sporadic E earlier in the year. For the second time this month, a tropo duct formed bringing in FM and TV signals up to 278 miles away. It started at about 8:00 PM when Norfolk, VA signals, at 120-140 miles away to the southeast, were coming in over semi-local and regional signals in my car. By 11:00 PM, the Norfolk signals were in with full HD Radio decodes and RDS on stations that don’t run HD. Norfolk’s 40 WTKR and 50 WGNT were in with local grade signals. This is a common occurrence in the warmer months at my location.
At 11:30 PM, the Norfolk signals faded away and were replaced with the common Philadelphia, PA FM & TV signals that I often get (at roughly 144 miles away) from the northeast instead. With that came a few new FM stations. The duct soon expanded into New York City and Long Island with WLNY-TV, a new digital log that I haven’t seen in 18 years since I first logged them as an analog signal. Although this duct wasn’t as strong as the one experienced on 9/11/19 where most New York City FM stations came in over my local Washington, DC signals, this opening made up with several random and unexpected FM & TV logs, with two signals (99.1 WAWZ and 107.9 WPPZ-FM) decoding in HD right over my local stations.
For brevity, I only have listed stations below which have new RDS/HD Radio screenshots, TV screenshots, or audio files. The content below has been added to my DX Logs pages.
A once-in-a-decade mammoth tropo duct to the north brought in multiple signals complete with HD Radio and RDS from New York City and surrounding areas to my Northern Virginia home on September 11, 2019. This comes on the heels of a spectacular tropo opening into New York and North Carolina the previous morning, which netted me 10 new DTV logs.
I first noticed New York’s TV 27 WNYW–which I had first logged the night before–coming in with local-grade reception at 227 miles at about 11:30 PM on September 10. Several other TV stations popped in from New York and Philadelphia at 144-227 miles away. At this point, the opening was largely TV-only like the previous night’s.
Without warning, many of my regional radio stations succumbed to strong signals from New York, such as 92.3, 101.9, and 102.7 FM. Minutes later, many of my local Washington, DC stations disappeared for the first time to NYC signals, resulting in seven new logs alone from the New York market. 100.3 WHTZ’s HD Radio signal blasted in right over local WBIG, which also runs HD Radio. I have not seen such an opening to the north in at least a decade.
The opening was not just limited to New York stations. FM signals from Philadelphia started to overpower my local Washington signals on the same frequencies at the same time, many with first-time HD Radio decodes. The entire duct began to fade into the usual Norfolk and Richmond fare at about 3:00 AM.