Record lows, a stunning lack of signals, and lots of frustration. Those words sum up the 2017 Sporadic E-Skip season in Northern Virginia.
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’ve been writing annual reviews of E-Skip seasons since 2011 and although I’ve often wrote that the current year’s season was bad, I really didn’t think it could get worse. 2017 is, categorically, the worst FM Es season that I’ve experienced since I started DXing in 1999 (monitoring daily for Es since 2006). There’s no nice way of saying it.
Think of it this way: FM Es was observed in Northern Virginia for 33 minutes total during the entire 2017 season. Yes, you read that right. Compare that to 6.9 hours of skip just a year ago, and a whopping 21.9 hours of FM Es in 2012. Skip just wasn’t happening at all this year, and interestingly enough Continue reading →
There’s a new HD Radio signal in the Washington metro region. Local station 92.7 WDCJ, which recently flipped formats after being sold, debuted its HD Radio signal sometime in the early morning hours of July 27. WDCJ broadcasts its IBOC signal on 92.5 and 92.9 FM. 92.5 is already home to a semi-local station (WINC Winchester, VA) and is unaffected. 92.9, unfortunately, is now wiped out by WDCJ’s digital signal while at home. This is not good since 92.9 was an open DX frequency in the area, save for occasional reception from a nearby translator. In my car, thankfully, 92.9 is still open, as evidenced by a booming signal from the aforementioned 92.9 translator just outside my home. I added the new HD Radio screenshots from WDCJ below to my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page.
92.7 WDCJ Prince Frederick, MD, 7/27/17, tropo, 36 miles (formerly WWXT)
After 14 days of no Sporadic E observed during the usually fertile month of July, E-skip finally returned on July 21, albeit briefly. Skip was first heard via unattended recordings set to 92.1 FM at 6:57 PM for about 5 seconds. While in my car at 7:15 PM, I found skip up to 98.1 FM, with relogs 98.1 KFGE and 97.7 KBBX in with strong signals and RDS. 92.9 KTGL and 97.7 KPOW came in weak soon after. As with all openings this year, the July 21 opening’s signals were brief. Although the skip ended at 7:29 PM, Sporadic E was only in FM for about 3 minutes total due to deep fades and a yo-yo MUF. Even with this shortcoming, today’s opening allowed me to get RDS from KBBX for the first time. I added the screenshots below to my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page.
Relogs and unIDs:
92.1 unID country
92.9 KTGL Beatrice, NE, 1044 miles, “92-9 The Eagle” – classic rock
97.7 KPOW La Monte, MO, 860 miles, local ads for Sedalia, MO
On July 20, 2017, 94.3 WWXX Buckland, VA, about 45 miles southwest of Washington, DC and 32 miles west of my home, flipped from a simulcast of DC’s ESPN Radio affiliate, 980 WTEM, to the “K-Love” Christian music network. This change marks the first major non-translator signal in the DC area to rebroadcast the nationwide network. 94.3’s new call letters are WLZV.
Up until recently, WLZV was part of a “trimulcast” of WTEM, which was also broadcasted on nearby 92.7 WWXT in Southern Maryland. 94.3 and 92.7 simulcasted each other through various formats since 2001. According to DCRTV.com, both WWXX and WWXT were sold to separate owners (WWXT going to Radio One and becoming a simulcast of DC’s 102.3 WMMJ; WWXX going to K-Love owner EMF) earlier this year. WWXX’s signal is weak at my home and is often overpowered by 94.3 WINX from the Maryland Eastern Shore.
Logistically, much like WDCJ’s recent format flip to cover an area not serviced well by its parent station, WLZV’s format flip to K-Love makes sense. K-Love is aired on several full-powered signals in nearby markets, such as Richmond, VA and Ocean City, MD, but none of these signals are strong enough to bring regular listenership in the DC metro area.
TV DX in Northern Virginia has been exceptional this past few days. Under minor signal enhancement to the northeast, I received two new stations: 22 WNJS and 44 WDPB. My TV Screenshots, and DX log pages have been updated with these new stations.
22 (virtual 23.1) WNJS Camden, NJ, 7/18/17, 150 miles
44 (virtual 64.1) WDPB Seaford, DE, 7/20/17, 98 miles
Recent tropo openings this past week brought in more new FM & TV stations. In the early morning hours of July 11, all Norfolk major TV signals were in, including WNLO-CD 45 and Lancaster, PA’s WGAL 8 for the first time. Although FM wasn’t as strong as TV, I managed to get new log 101.1 WYMY from the Raleigh, NC area in over local WWDC. DTV decodes from WMJF-CD 39 from Baltimore and WNJT 43 from New Jersey were also received for the first time on July 13.
The prize of the openings was the unlikely log of 99.9 W260BW on July 13. 99.9 is a frequency always dominated by regional blowtorch signals 99.9 WFRE (59 miles), 99.9 WWFG (116 miles), so it was shocking to get anything else on 99.9, especially a weak 80-watt signal at 150 miles away. My TV Screenshots, DX log, and Audio pages have been updated with these new stations.
99.9 W260BW Bridgeton, NJ, “SNJ Today” – hot AC, 7/13/17, 150 miles
101.1 WYMY Burlington, NC, spanish, 7/11/17, 222 miles, over local WWDC
8 (virtual 8.1) WGAL Lancaster, PA, 7/11/17, 119 miles
When I started DXing in 1999, I DXed TV as much as I DXed FM. This abruptly stopped in 2009 with the DTV transition, as distant DTV signals didn’t come in like they did during the analog days. I tried to DX DTV again in 2013, but gave up a second time due to a lack of new signals. When I moved earlier this year to a better-positioned location for signal propagation, I wanted to try DTV DXing once again to see if I would have any luck, hoping third time’s a charm. It was.
In the past few weeks, I received TV signals from all of my major markets I regularly get FM from, including Richmond, VA, Baltimore, MD, and for the first time, Philadelphia, PA, with 15 new stations received. During DX enhancement, there are always signals on unfamiliar channels below the threshold of a PSIP ID, meaning there are many more DX targets that I’ll hopefully log sooner or later.
I added the screenshots below to my TV Screenshots page, which includes similar screenshots from both analog and DTV stations dating back to 2001. My TV DX log has also been updated with these new stations.
Rinse and repeat. In what is becoming a fashionable trend this year, Sporadic E stopped by only for minutes on July 7 before disappearing. This largely contrasts with reports online of sustained top-of-the-band FM Es in neighboring states. In my car near my home at 7:31 PM, I received RDS from relog 89.1 WPAS for about 15 seconds before the signal disappeared. The skip then reappeared about 30 minutes later, with an unidentified religious signal on 89.1, and an unknown oldies station on 92.1. This second ‘dip’ into FM lasted for about two minutes before going away. These signals, albeit short-lived, were also both fairly strong–the 92.1 overpowerd weak tropo from nearby Richmond, VA’s 92.1 WCDX.
The only good thing about the opening is that the later signals from 89.1 and 92.1 were heard indoors–the first skip opening with my new indoor Yagi antenna array. While using rabbit ears indoors most of this skip season, hearing skip-reflected signals indoors was almost impossible. It was refreshing to hear the characteristic “fade in/fade out/fade in” of skip on two separate frequencies using a more robust antenna, and it shows me that my radios actually work. Maybe this means I’ll get *one* sustained, workable opening before the skip season ends at the end of this month.
I quickly realized upon moving in March 2017 that I needed a dedicated antenna for FM. Rabbit ears worked just fine bringing in tropo signals up to 200 miles away in most directions, but I needed a much more robust antenna to pick up Sporadic E signals–something I found which came in fine in my car, but was very difficult to hear indoors with rabbit ears just feet away.
I spoke with several DXers and came to the conclusion that rabbit ears weren’t going to cut it if I wanted to benefit from Sporadic E or marathon tropo openings indoors. Given that I DXed with a roof-mounted Radio Shack VU-90XR antenna from 2004 until my move in March 2017 and never tried any other antennas, I had no idea what to Continue reading →
The weak, “here one second, gone the next” Sporadic E openings of 2017 continued on June 30. At 8:30 PM in my car located in Springfield, VA near my home, I heard an NWS weather alert on 89.1 FM with mentions of Fort Sill and Warren, OK, likely relog KYCU Clinton, OK @ 1215 miles. Shortly later, I heard a Bott Radio Network station on 95.1 FM, likely relog KQCV Shawnee, OK @ 1079 miles. Neither station had a definitive ID. The MUF of the opening was 95.1 FM and the opening lasted about 2 minutes long.