Tropo on the edge…

It’s been some months since we’ve seen any sort of decent tropo opening on VHF/UHF, in this part of Europe at least. However, there really was no excuse for being unaware of this one in advance because the forecasting websites (F5LEN and Hepburn) had been predicting something nice for the end of September for at least week prior. It turned out to be exceptional!

The Hepburn maps looked like this:

Tropo forecast, period 28th September to 3rd October 2015

280915_0600290915_0600300915_0600
28th September 201529th September 201530th September 2015
011015_0600021015_0600031015_0600
1st October 20152nd October 20153rd October 2015
Tropo forecast maps for north-western Europe, copyright 2015 William R Hepburn.

 

Previous experience in interpreting these maps told me it was no “sure thing”. There were enough “blotches” (discontinuities) showing to add some doubt about how far the paths would go; but there was no doubt it was going to be worth paying attention!

With hindsight I would say the maps were pretty much spot-on: The opening from southern Ireland was right on the edge with signals, especially over the longest distances, generally appearing for minutes at a time, sometimes never to be heard again. An extreme example was when, once or twice, a signal would go from S9 to not audible between overs. The propagation was generally extremely selective, with “chalk-and-cheese” differences noted even between stations just a few kilometres apart. All-in-all, it was somewhat similar to Sporadic E. Now just imagine an Es opening lasting several days, where the band appears dead but you know something could appear at any time – it amounted to pretty hard work finding the dx!

Notable contacts from my log are in the maps and table below. I had problems with my 70cms setup beforehand (albeit just 30W to a 19el F9FT @4m agl), but luckily managed to get it repaired before the propagation started, so the log includes a few nice (and very nice!) 432MHz contacts too:

EI3KD tropo QSO maps 28/09/15 to 03/10/15

2m tropo map, 28/09/15 to 03/10/15

2m tropo map, 28/09/15 to 03/10/15

70cm tropo map, 28/09/15 to 03/10/15

70cm tropo map, 28/09/15 to 03/10/15

EI3KD tropo log, 28/09/15 to 03/10/15

DateUTCCallLocBandModeDistance (km)
28/09/201515:18F0FEK/PJO00TE2mSSB713
28/09/201515:39PD1AHMJO21WF2mSSB974
28/09/201516:25DL6YBFJO31OX2mCW1054
28/09/201518:26DJ2TXJO33SA2mCW1071
28/09/201518:28PA1BVMJO21RO2mSSB939
28/09/201518:34F8GGDIN95UQ2mCW904
28/09/201519:17EA2XRIN83KI2mSSB1027
28/09/201519:29F2YTJO10GK2mSSB767
28/09/201520:51F4HBYIN97AT2mSSB640
28/09/201520:54F6FGQIN78QJ2mSSB469
28/09/201520:56F6FGQIN78QJ70cmSSB469
29/09/201518:25SM6VTZJO58WI2mSSB1454
01/10/201509:53PA3CJO33FD2mCW999
01/10/201510:01SP1JNYJO73GL2mCW1535
01/10/201510:40LY2WRKO24FO2mCW2172
01/10/201510:54DL3BQAJO73CF2mCW1515
01/10/201516:50SK7MWJO65MJ2mSSB1445
01/10/201519:28SP1JNYJO73GL2mSSB1535
01/10/201519:37SM7GVFJO77GA2mCW1565
01/10/201519:50SM1FMTJO96BW2mCW1778
01/10/201519:54OV3TJO46RG2mSSB1244
01/10/201520:00DL6AAJO43JH70cmSSB1154
01/10/201520:04DL6AAJO43JH70cmSSB1154
01/10/201520:22DL7APVJO62JR70cmJT65A1424
01/10/201521:23SP1JNYJO73GL70cmCW1535
01/10/201521:36PA5MSJO21RQ2mCW938
01/10/201521:41PA5YJO21VO2mCW966
01/10/201522:23SM7GVFJO77GA70cmCW1565
01/10/201522:33OK1SKYJO56DG70cmCW1293
02/10/201504:44OZ1BEFJO46OE2mSSB1226
02/10/201504:53OZ1BEFJO46OE70cmCW1226
02/10/201507:24DM4EEJO64KE2mCW1425
02/10/201507:25PA5MSJO21RQ2mCW938
02/10/201507:38DG3XAJO43WJ2mSSB1226
02/10/201507:51DO3BSTJO51KW2mSSB1304
02/10/201508:01SP1FJZJO84EE2mSSB1652
02/10/201508:02PA0TJO33JC2mSSB1024
02/10/201508:58DF1ANJO63SX2mSSB1468
02/10/201509:21DL4KUGJO64PB2mSSB1452
02/10/201509:43SP1NQNJO84ML2mCW1695
02/10/201509:51SP1MVGJO73GL2mSSB1535
02/10/201510:06SP2CNWJO93AI2mSSB1767
02/10/201510:13DK0HATJO53AP2mSSB1238
02/10/201510:15DJ9YEJO43HV2mSSB1146
02/10/201511:09DF0MUJO32PC2mCW1058
02/10/201511:11DL6BFJO32QI2mCW1062
02/10/201511:13SP1FJZJO84EE2mCW1652
02/10/201511:18PA0KVAJO33KC2mCW1026
02/10/201511:37PD0MEJO32KX2mCW1026
02/10/201511:42DO7ESJO64PJ2mCW1453
02/10/201512:07OZ6TYJO55XE2mSSB1374
02/10/201512:15SP1JNYJO73GL70cmCW1535
02/10/201512:27OZ6OLJO65DJ2mCW1398
02/10/201512:30DL7UNJO44LO2mCW1176
02/10/201512:55SK7MWJO65MJ2mCW1445
02/10/201513:45PE1OPKJO23UE2mSSB949
02/10/201515:27SP4MPBKO03HT2mCW1932
02/10/201516:29SQ1FYBJO73MI2mSSB1569
02/10/201519:20OZ5NMJO55GJ2mSSB1293
03/10/201507:13OZ6TYJO55XE2mCW1374
03/10/201507:34SP2HMTJO94FQ2mCW1786
03/10/201507:38LY2WRKO24FO2mSSB2172
03/10/201507:43LY2WRKO24FO70cmCW2172
03/10/201507:56PA0SJEJO23VH2mCW955
03/10/201508:08PA1MPJO22IP2mCW881
03/10/201508:48SM7ECMJO65NQ70cmCW1454
03/10/201508:50SM7NRJO76GC70cmCW1548
03/10/201509:09SK7MWJO65MJ2mCW1445
03/10/201509:12OZ1BNNJO55PM2mSSB1338
03/10/201509:28SM7IPBJO65QS2mCW1471
03/10/201511:10SK7MWJO65MJ2mSSB1445
03/10/201511:49OZ6TYJO55XE2mSSB1374

I didn’t have the audio recorder running much of the time but I did record my highlight, which was a very unexpected SSB QSO with LY2WR (KO24fo, 2172km) on October 3rd, when I thought conditions had faded…

LY2WR 2m ssb
\"LY2WR 2m ssb\" from 2m Tropo by EI3KD. Released: 2015.

I started tuning around the band again after that 2m QSO and then realised I’d seen that LY2WR was also active on 70cms. I quickly went back and asked him to try on 432MHz and an exceptional contact was the result!

LY2WR 70cm cw
\"LY2WR 70cm cw\" from 70cm Tropo by EI3KD. Released: 2015.

Of course I was very happy with what I’d heard or worked during this tropo opening but I have a niggling feeling I didn’t quite get the full potential out of it, simply by not being at the right place at the right time with another station at the far end… I spent many, many hours constantly listening for YL3AG in KO06, with a sum total of an extremely weak signal heard for probably no more than a minute; the duct just didn’t favour that particular path.

Finally, it must be noted that there were some fabulous results from the U.K., with stations that were probably more favourably placed for this particular opening. One example was Paul, G4RRA’s amazing 2m contact with RA3LBW at over 2400km. I know there were many more great contacts not just from G, but also GI, GM, etc. Hopefully we’ll get to hear more about those too!

73, Mark

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