Ops may wish to avoid 6950 kHz

I’ve noticed LINK-11 (TADIL – Tactical Digital Information Link) transmissions in the 6940-6950 kHz region the last day or two. Operators may wish to avoid 6950 kHz, and perhaps even 6955 kHz, especially while these transmissions are occurring.

I have no idea where these transmitters are located, but if I had to guess based on propagation characteristics, I’d say maybe Canada or out in the Atlantic.

LINK-11 is operated by the US military. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to interfere with it.

Global Pirate HF Weekend Results So Far

While conditions may not have been spectacular, I was able to hear a lot of stations. All heard with a JRC NRD 545 receiver and my 635 ft sky loop antenna.

Here’s what I’ve heard so far, all loggings reported to the HFUnderground.com message board.

Stations Heard UTC March 30:
Trans Europe 15020 AM 1420 UTC
Mike Radio 21455 AM 1356 UTC
Fox Radio 6308 USB 0010 UTC

Stations Heard UTC March 31:
Mustang Radio 15000 AM 1115 UTC
Trans Europe Radio 15020 AM 1125 UTC
Rave on Radio 6925 USB 1215 UTC
Radio Underground 15050 USB 1242 UTC
Radio Spaceshuttle 15845 USB 1223 UTC
Radio Underground 15850 USB 1302 UTC
Radio Paranoid 15030 AM 1134 UTC
Baltic Sea Radio 18950 LSB 1346 UTC
Radio Scotland 15060 AM 1400 UTC
Radio Mustang 15020 AM 1415 UTC
Cupid Radio 21460 1435 UTC
Cupid Radio 15070 1523 UTC
Radio True North 21850 AM 1529 UTC
Undercover Radio 15050 AM 1538 UTC
Radio True North 15520 AM 1623 UTC

Global Pirate HF Weekend March 31 – April 1

This is a great opportunity to hear a lot of Europirates!

Global Pirate HF-Weekend will be 31.3. – 1.4.2012. ( from http://hkdx2.blogspot.ca/ )

Be sure to visit either the #pirateradio IRC chat or Iann’s Chat while the event is taking place, to get current information on what stations are active.

1) RADIO SCOTLAND, Holland- 15.060 MHz – AM – 200 W
Saturdaymorning 08:00 – 10:00 h utc.
Saturday afternoon 14:00 (or 14:15) – 15:00 h utc.
Sundaymorning 09:00 – 11:00 h utc.
LIVE WEB-CAM: http://www.radioscotland.nl/Webcamrsi.html

Frequency 15.050 – 15.065 MHz, if 15.060 is occupied.

2) TRANS EUROPE RADIO, Holland – 15.000 – 15.100 MHz – AM – 65 W
Will be active during Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon
on 19 mb.

3) BALTIC SEA RADIO, Scandinavia – 21.485 MHz – USB – 80/150 W W
On Saturday starting 08.00 and again 13.00 utc
On Sunday starting at 09.00 utc.

4) RADIO BORDERHUNTER, Holland – around /15 MHz/ 21.5 MHz – AM
More information later for dates and frq’s

x) OLD TIME RADIO, Scandinavia – 15.009 MHz – AM – 50 W
Short test was planned but cancelled for this weekend.

5) RADIO BLACK BIRD, Holland – 19 mb – AM
No frequency or time information yet.

6) WR INTERNATIONAL, England – 12.257 MHz – AM – 35 W
WR is on the air every Sunday from 08.00 – 11.00 utc.

7) BALKAN RADIO INTERNATIONAL – ??? MHz – AM -
New station from Balkan area. The station has new transmitter and
let’s hope it will be on air for this weekend.

8 ) RADIO SPACESHUTTLE, Scandinavia – 15.845 MHz – AM+SSB – 200 W
Saturday and Sunday some transmissions between 07:00-16:00utc on
15845 kHz (or nearby). AM and SSB (changing time to time)

9) FREE RADIO NOVA, Holland 15.070 MHz – AM
Sunday 1.4.2012 starting at 08.00 utc.

10) MIKE RADIO, Holland – around 21.500 MHz – AM
Not 100 %. 21.500 or 21.850 MHz.
Antenna tower still down for the winter.

XX) RADIO BLACK ARROW, Holland – 21.490 MHz – AM
Transmitter broken week ago – Possibly not on air

11) RADIO FOX 48, Scandinavia – about 15.092 MHz – USB – 300 W
Saturday 14.00 – 16.00 utc.

12) CUPID RADIO, Holland – 21.460 MHz (or 15.065 MHz) – AM
Saturday 31-3 euro afternoon broadcasting towards the U.S.A freq 21.460 mhz [when the band is down 15.065]
Sunday 1-4 starting at 08:00 utc till 10:00 utc freq freq 21.460 mhz [when the band is down 15.065]
Sunday 1-4 euro afternoon broadcasting towards the U.S.A freq 21.460 mhz [when the band is down 15.065]
Loads of sstv pictures will be send out during the broadcast.

13) MUSTANG RADIO, Holland – 15.000 – 15.100 MHz – AM – 50 W
Again new participant! More info later!!

14) RADIO LATINO, South Europe – 15.000 – 15.100 MHz -
26.100 – 26.200 MHz – AM – 40 W
Salsa mix-programme (30 min) on early morning on Saturday and Monday
at 06.30 – 07.00 and 07.30 – 08.00 utc! Progamme will continue longer if possible.
-26.100 – 26.200 MHz (in the morning, if propagation helps)
-15.000 – 15.100 MHz (in the evening, if morning propagation is bad)
More info and realtime-info on the web-page: http://radiolatino.bigbig.com/
E-mail: radiolatino@live.com

15) RADIO UNDERGROUND, England – 15.000-15.100 MHz -USB – 80 W
More exact frequency and times later, also 21 MHz is possible.

16) FREE RADIO VICTORIA, Holland – 21.880 MHz – AM- 50 Watts
On Sunday 1/4/12 from 08:00 ….. 10:00 UTC on the Dipole intend for Scandinavia and the Mediterranean Sea.
On Sunday 1/4/12 from 11:00 ….. 13:00 UTC on the Vertical ant. intend for overseas country,s .

17) RADIO TROPIQ, Central Europe – Many frequencies – AM 50 W / LSB – 80 W
Saturday
15.00 – 15.30 UT 15.050 MHz
16.00 – 16.30 UT 11.450 MHz
18.00 – 18.30 UT 9.950 MHz
Sunday
08.00 – 08.30 UT 18.205 MHz
09.00 – 09.30 UT 9.950 MHz

North America
18) Radio True North – 15.460 MHz (200 W) or 21.850 MHz (40 W)- AM
On air from 14.00 – 23.00 utc.
Also possibly on air on 6.925 or 6.950 MHz around at 02.00 utc

OUT OF HF-FREQUENCIES:
19) COOL AM RADIO, Holland – 10 Watts mobile – 6925 or 6940 kHz
This station is NOT HF-station because it uses 42 mb but I
took this in because it is special 10 W mobile!!

PIRATES – ATTENTION!
Info of free frequencies can be found here:
http://www1.m2.mediacat.ne.jp/binews/bia12.txt

BASIC SCHEDULE

1) European MORNING 08.00 – 12.00 UTC from Europe to Asia/Japan/Oceania.

2) European AFTERNOON 12.00 – 16.00 utc from Europe to North America and vice versa.

3) European NIGHT 22.00 – 24.00 UTC from North America to Asia/Oceania.

Chinese Firedrake Jammer

Firedrake is the unofficial name of a shortwave broadcast featuring loud oriental orchestral music. It exists solely to jam other signals, such as broadcasts by Sound of Hope, which broadcasts programming from Taiwan that is often critical of Chinese government policies and human rights abuse. The broadcasts only contain music; no form of on-air identification has ever been reported. Apparently, the source of the Firedrake shortwave transmissions is a China National Radio satellite feed.

While international regulations prohibit jamming, this has never stopped China (or the Soviet Union, Cuba, Iran, etc) from doing so. Rather than use a traditional jamming sound, apparently China believes that transmitting music 24 hours a day on dozens of frequencies doesn’t qualify as jamming. Or that no one will notice.

Here is a recording of Firedrake from March 29, 2012 on 14970 kHz.

Below is a relatively current list of known Firedrake transmissions:

Frequency     UTC Time
6280          2200-2400
7105          2200-2300
7280          1100-1300
7310          1300-1400
7310          2300-2400
7525          2300-2400
7565          2200-2400
7615          2200-2400
7970          0000-2400
9200          0000-2400
9450          1400-1600
9540          0900-1100
9635          2200-2300
10300         0000-2400
10965         0000-2400
10970         0000-2400
11500         0000-2400
11550         1200-1300
11760         0900-1100
11820         1330-1400
11980         2000-1700
12130         1500-1630
12160         1130-1200
12175         1300-1330
12175         1600-1700
12230         0000-2400
12300         0000-2400
12600         0000-2400
12670         0000-2400
12980         0000-2400
13060         0000-2400
13130         0000-2400
13270         0000-2400
13500         0000-2400
13850         0000-2400
13920         0000-2400
13970         0000-2400
14400         0000-2400
14700         0000-2400
14900         0000-2400
14970         0000-2400
15070         0000-2400
15500         0000-2400
15745         1230-1300
15750         1300-1330
15750         1400-1500
15800         0000-2400
15900         0000-2400
15970         0000-2400
16100         0000-2400
16700         0000-2400
16980         0000-2400
17100         0000-2400
17250         0000-2400
17450         0000-2400
17560         1400-1430
17920         0000-2400
18180         0000-2400

How Wide Can You Go (And Does the FCC Let You Spew QRM Over HF)

Here’s a waterfall I just made at 2155 UTC today, March 28, 2012, of WWCR Nashville TV on 6875 kHz, as captured by my netSDR running SdrDx software:

WWCR

The sidebands extend all the way out to 6850 and 6900 kHz. That’s +/- 25 kHz wide. I inserted up to 30 dB of attenuation on the input signal, and the wide sidebands didn’t go away, so I don’t think this is an overloading issue.

Does the FCC have limits on the channel width SWBC stations can occupy? Is this really necessary?

Update:

Here’s a waterfall from 2327 UTC, showing both WWCR on 6875 and WYFR on 6915. Both are of similar signal strength, but only WWCR shows the very wide signal. Double click on the image to open it full size:

WWCR WYFR

Over modulation?

FWIW, you can see that with both of these stations on, there isn’t a lot of space left for pirates on 43 meters. At 6925, you run into possible interference from WYFR on 6915. WWCR takes out at least 50 kHz, from 6850 to 6900. There’s several UTEs scattered around as well.

Some Pirate Radio Statistics

There’s been a rather dubious claim of pirate radio being destroyed. And the fun being taken out of it. Again. This concerned me very much, as I’ve been listening to pirate radio stations since 1978, and I’m pretty sure that it’s still fun. I turned on the radio, tuned to 6925 kHz, and sure enough, I didn’t hear any pirate radio, just static. Granted, it was one in the afternoon. If only I was living in New Zealand, then I’m sure I would have heard something.

Just to be sure, I decided to look at the last year or so to see how many pirate stations have been reported on the HFUnderground.com pirate loggings message board each month. Being as the HFU is the “original, most-viewed, reliable, blazingly fast, respected, loved, and imitated Pirate Radio site on the Net”.

Here’s what I came up with:

January       100
February       87
March          81
April         104
May            81
June           36
July           56
August         60
September      83
October       135
November      150
December      197
January       172
February      130
March          93 (as of March 23, so I'd estimate
we'll end up with about 125 for the whole month)

There’s an average of about five messages per logging thread. So multiply the above numbers by five if you want to know approximately how many people reported hearing a pirate transmission on the HFU during each month.

You can certainly see the drop in activity over the summer, presumably because the bands are noisy from thunderstorms, and people have better things to do than sit in front of the radio and listen to static.

And there’s a big peak around the end of the year holidays. No surprise there, as there’s lots of once a year stations that pop up that time of the year. All operated by the same six old white guys that operate 99 44/100% of the pirate stations that we hear anyway.

joke

Looking at these statistics, I’m not sure how someone can claim that pirate radio has been destroyed. The number of reported loggings for January and February 2012 are about 60% higher than those months from the previous year. And it looks like March will be up by about the same amount. Graphing the number of loggings shows a clear increase over time. By using a linear trend fit, much like Al Gore does with temperature measurements, it is pretty clear that by 2020, there will be millions of pirate radio loggings on the HF Underground every month. The sheer number of eQSLs being sent out will probably cause the entire internet to go down:

graph

Alternately, one could claim that the numbers are only higher because people have been flocking to the HFU. Hmm… no, I don’t think he’ll claim that.

New Antennas and Diminishing Returns

A few weeks ago, I put up a new antenna, a delta loop for 43 meters. Since it was dedicated for a single band, the performance should be very good. My plan was to write a article here about how well it works, compared to my existing antenna, the 635 foot Sky Loop. That article never materialized, because… the delta loop doesn’t work any better than sky loop. What went wrong?

Shortwave listeners, it seems, are addicted to two types of new things: new radios, and new antennas.

We’re sure that the latest and greatest radio will substantially improve reception, reject QRM, and let us hear lots of stations we could never hear before. And Software Defined Radios promise to do all this and more (just ask Al Fansome). While a new radio often does offer conveniences and advantages over the old one, usually they turn out to be mostly minor improvements (unless you’re switching from say a portable to a desktop communications receiver, or finally giving up that old analog tube radio for a newfangled solid state rig with digital readout).

The same holds true, it seems, for antennas. Sure, if you’ve previously had an indoor antenna, and finally are able to put up your first outside antenna, the improvement will indeed be dramatic. You most likely will hear new stations that you never could pick up before, and the reception of existing stations will be substantially improved. You’ll also end up not hearing some things you previously did, like your plasma TV.

And switching from say a 50 foot random wire to a dipole or T2FD will also produce a noticeable improvement in reception. Not as much of an improvement as going to an outside antenna, but still significant.

But after that, it certainly does seem to be a case of diminishing returns.

When I switched from the T2FD to the Sky Loop, I did notice an improvement in reception, but it was not what one would call amazing. It was better, certainly, and worth the effort. But I went from a 132 ft T2FD to a 635 ft sky loop. Most of the improvement was on the lower frequencies and MW, as one would expect. Reception on the higher frequencies, say above 20 MHz was either the same or worse. Also probably as one might expect.

But, like the gambler looking for that last final big score, we SWLs have to try for the ultimate antenna. The one that will let us hear otherwise impossible DX. Like a pirate on 6925 kHz during the daytime transmitting from Montana. Possibly also being heard in New Zealand. To hell with the laws of physics!

So I ran numerous NEC models on various configurations of the delta loop, optimizing the dimensions and height for the best possible reception. Ignoring the fact that minor changes in things like ground conductivity cause huge changes in antenna performance. And that I have no idea what the ground conductivity is here, anyway. Plus, it probably changes when it rains. Also, the takeoff angle from the antenna varies quite a bit if you change the height of the antenna by a foot or two. Did I mention that my yard is heavily sloped?

But, I did the calculations, cut the wire, shot the fishing line up over the trees to pull up the rope, and installed the new delta loop. Then ran coax to the shack, connected it to the radio, and ran some tests that evening, to see how much better the performance was. It wasn’t. Signal levels were lower than with the sky loop, and more importantly, the signal to noise ratio was the same or worse. Plus, I had an antenna that basically worked for one band, whereas the sky loop is good from MW up.

So, I think I’m going to stick with the sky loop. No need to switch antennas, or use an antenna tuner. It just works. Although, if I take the delta loop and reconfigure it as a horizontal resonant one wavelength antenna… hmm… time to run some NEC simulations!

Solar Storms (plus Solar Hurricanes, Typhoons, and other ways the Sun will vaporize us or even worse, possibly cause your iPhone to not work)


Over the past few years, there has been dramatically increased media coverage of solar flares, and the effects they can have on the Earth, primarily on our electrical distribution and communications systems. The emphasis has been on the ability of the flares to cause geomagnetic storms on the Earth, which then can induce currents in our electrical power grids, causing them to go offline from damage. There has been a tremendous amount of fear instilled in the public by the hundreds, if not thousands, of news articles that appear every time there is a solar flare.

Those of us who are shortwave listeners or amateur (ham) radio operators are typically familiar with solar flares, and some of the effects they can cause. To summarize:

A solar flare is a sudden brightening of a portion of the Sun’s surface. A solar flare releases a large amount of energy in the form of ultraviolet light, x-rays and various charged particles, which blast away from the solar surface. The x-rays can have an almost immediate effect on the Earth’s ionosphere, the layer of charged particles above the atmosphere, which allows for distant reception of shortwave radio signals. I discuss the effects of x-rays on the ionosphere this earlier article. Energetic solar flares can cause what are known as radio blackouts, where all of the shortwave spectrum appears to be dead, with few or no stations audible. Other communications bands, such as AM / medium wave (MW between 526-1705 kHz), FM, TV, and cellular phones are not affected. Just shortwave. Also, the portion of the Sun producing the flare must be roughly facing the Earth to have an effect, and only the sunlit portion of the Earth is affected.

The solar flare can also cause a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), which is a burst of energy, plasma, particles, and magnetic fields. The CME typically takes one to three days to reach the Earth. When it does, it can cause a geomagnetic storm, which is a disruption of the Earth’s magnetosphere. The magnetosphere is a region of space surrounding the Earth, where the magnetic field of the earth interacts with charged particles from the sun and interplanetary space.

The CME can produce very high radiation levels, but only in outer space. If you’re an astronaut on the International Space Station, this could be a concern. If not, you don’t really have much to worry about. High altitude airline flights can result in somewhat higher than usual radiation doses, but high airline flights always result in higher than usual radiation doses, due to less atmosphere protecting you from cosmic radiation. You might just get a little more especially if you fly over the North Pole. Or over the South Pole, but I don’t think there are too many of us who do that.

The effects of a geomagnetic storm:

The Earth’s magnetic fields are disturbed. This can cause compass needles to deviate from their correct direction towards the poles, and has been frequently mentioned in medieval texts.

Communications systems can be impacted. As with solar flares, shortwave radio is most affected. AM can also be affected to some degree. FM TV, and cell phones are not affected.

Back in 1859, there was a large geomagnetic storm, often called the Carrington Event because the solar flare that caused it was seen by British astronomer Richard Carrington. The effects were dramatic. Aurora were seen as far south as the Caribbean. Telegraph lines failed, and some threw sparks that shocked operators. Storms of this magnitude are estimated to occur about every 500 years. Other very large geomagnetic storms occurred in 1921 and 1960, although neither was the magnitude of the 1859 storm. The term “Carrington Event” has now come to mean an extremely large geomagnetic storm that could cause devastating damage to the communications and electrical systems around the world. But these forecasts are often based on the notion that, with more communications and electrical systems in place, we are much more reliant on these systems and vulnerable to disruption, meanwhile ignoring the fact that we better understand how geomagnetic storms cause damage, and what can be done to prevent it. Remember, this was 1859, and very little was even known about how electricity worked, let alone the effects of geomagnetic storms. This was in fact the first time that the relationship between solar flares and geomagnetic storms was established.

Communications satellites can be affected due to the higher radiation levels and unequal currents induced in various parts of the satellites. This could cause the satellites to temporarily malfunction, or even be damaged (which could affect FM, TV, and cell phone calls, which would otherwise be unaffected). As satellites are always in a high radiation environment, they are protected, and it would take very severe conditions to cause extensive damage.

Between 19 October and 5 November 2003 there were 17 solar flares, including the most intense flare ever measured on the GOES x-ray sensor, a huge X28 flare that occurred on November 4. These flares produced what is referred to as the Halloween Storm, causing the loss of one satellite, the Japanese ADEOS-2. Bear in mind that there are almost a thousand active satellites in orbit.

GPS navigation can also be affected, due to variations in the density of different layers of the ionosphere. This can cause navigation errors.

But the effect that, thanks to media hype, everyone is most concerned about is the possibility of a solar flare causing a geomagnetic storm that destroys the entire power grid, leaving virtually the entire United States without power for weeks or even months. The good news is that this is highly unlikely to happen.

Here’s the scenario: The geomagnetic storm causes currents to be induced in the wires that make up the long distance transmission lines that connect the various electrical power plants and users across the United States, aka the power grid. If these currents become large, they can damage equipment such as transformers, leading to widespread power outages.

And indeed this happened, on a much smaller scale, on March 13, 1989. A geomagnetic storm caused ground induced currents that severely damaged seven static compensators (devices that are used to regulate the grid voltage) on the La Grande network in the Hydro-Quebec, Canada power grid, causing them to trip or shut down automatically. The loss of the compensators allowed fluctuations in the grid voltage, causing damaging to other devices. The net result was that over 6 million people in Quebec and the Northeastern United States were without power for about 9 hours. Another million were without power after the 9 hours. Parts of Sweden also had electrical power disruptions.

While being without power for 9 hours, or even several days, sounds dreadful, especially in this age of constant communications, it does happen routinely. Hurricanes and tropical storms often cause millions to lose power outage each year, as do snowstorms, ice storms, and thunderstorms. Even heat waves have caused massive blackouts. I was without power for a week after Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The concern with an extreme geomagnetic storm, such as a repeat of the Carrington Event, is that critical components such as large transformers could be damaged, which can take time to repair or replace. And there’s the fear that widespread damage to the electrical grid could result in more components being damaged than spare parts exist, causing even longer delays until they can be replaced.

In the two decades since the 1989 event, more protective devices have been installed, and electrical transmission line operators are more aware of the damage caused by induced currents from geomagnetic storms. Preventative measures, such as temporary blackouts for several hours until conditions stabilize, can prevent much of the damage from a large geomagnetic storm. The advanced warning of geomagnetic storms now possible due to the satellites that are continuously monitoring the Sun and the Earth’s geomagnetic field can give electrical transmission line operators the advanced warning they need to take preventative measures.

Also, the 1989 event occurred in Quebec, which is at a very northern latitude. Geomagnetic storms tend to be stronger near the poles, and less severe as you move towards the equator (much like how the aurora is commonly seen near the poles, but not elsewhere).

It’s also worth noting that there are actually three electrical grids in the United States: an Easter, Western, and Texas grid. They are not currently connected to each other, although there are discussions to do so.

Finally, while a repeat of the Carrington Event is possible, it is extremely unlikely (remember, they are thought to occur about once every 500 years). There are far more important things to plan for, such as blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, and even severe thunderstorms, which routinely do occur. It is certainly more prudent to prepare for events like these, by keeping batteries, portable radios, canned food, and jugs of water on hand, than to worry about an event that probably won’t happen again for several hundred years.

So, why all the media frenzy and public concern over solar storms?

First, the Sun operates on a roughly 11 year solar cycle. Solar activity, including the appearance of sunspots and solar flares, peaks about every 11 years, and then fades until the next solar peak. There’s a solar peak occurring right about now. The last one was in 2001. This was before Facebook, Twitter, and everyone spending several hours a day on the internet, obsessing about the crisis du jour. Or crisis of the year in this case. Back in 2001, very few people even knew there was such a thing as a solar flare, other than space scientists and ham radio operators.

Those of us who have been involved with radio related hobbies for some time are used to the 11 year cycle. As an SWL since 1978, I’ve witnessed several solar cycles. During a solar peak we get many more flares which disrupt reception, although the overall higher level of solar activity is actually beneficial to shortwave propagation. Plus, it’s more likely that we’ll get to see the aurora. Then things calm down for many years, until the next solar peak.

There’s also been a substantial increase in advocacy by scientists and other public officials for increased spending on solar flare / geomagnetic storm research and related programs. Obviously this is justified to some extent, as we are much more reliant upon technology, and even just electricity, than we were decades ago. Still, I wonder if things are being exaggerated just a wee bit. Government officials and those involved in research have a vested interest in increasing their budgets and staffs – it’s job security for them. I’m not suggesting any malice, pretty much everyone thinks their job is important, especially those in the scientific field. It’s human nature.

This increased advocacy has resulted in increased media coverage as well. I’m far less sympathetic here. The motto of many news organizations seems to be “If it bleeds, it leads”. Pretty much every time there’s a solar flare, there’s a flurry of news articles announcing impending doom. The titles are amusing, not only are there SOLAR STORMS, but also SOLAR HURRICANES, SOLAR TYPHOONS, and SOLAR TSUNAMIS. I haven’t heard of any SOLAR TORNADOES, but maybe next month. Invariably the articles describe how a solar flare can wipe out the entire power grid, sending us all back to the stone age. And this might be the one that does it! Of course, a day or two later, when the CME arrives and little happens other than poor shortwave radio listening and some enhanced Northern Lights, there’s no followup article. Although if there was, I’m sure it would state that while we dodged the bullet this time, the next flare will surely fry us all. And our iPhones.

Some examples:

Nasa scientists braced for ‘solar tsunami’ to hit earth

The Daily Telegraph disclosed in June that senior space agency scientists believed the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes “from a deep slumber” sometime around 2013.

Cities blacked out for up to a year, $2 TRILLION of damage – with a 1 in 8 chance of solar ‘megastorm’ by 2014

Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year. The losses could be $1 to $2 trillion, and the effects could be felt for years.

‘A longer-term outage would likely include, for example, disruption of the transportation, communication, banking, and finance systems, and government services,’ the NRC report said, it was reported on Gizmodo.

‘It could also cause the breakdown of the distribution of water owing to pump failure; and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of lack of refrigeration.’

Solar Flare: What If Biggest Known Sun Storm Hit Today?

Repeat of 1859 space-weather event could paralyze modern life, experts say.

A powerful sun storm—associated with the second biggest solar flare of the current 11-year sun cycle—is now hitting Earth, so far with few consequences. But the potentially “severe geomagnetic storm,” in NASA’s words, could disrupt power grids, radio communications, and GPS as well as spark dazzling auroras.

The storm expected Thursday, though, won’t hold a candle to an 1859 space-weather event, scientists say—and it’s a good thing too.

If a similar sun storm were to occur in the current day—as it well could—modern life could come to a standstill, they add.

The news articles are bad enough, but I suspect the fact that 11 years ago no one saw articles like this, or even knew solar flares existed, has convinced a lot of the public that solar flares (of this magnitude and frequency of occurrence) are a new phenomena. It probably doesn’t help that this is the year 2012, and we’ve had the Mayan 2012 END OF THE WORLD nonsense to deal with for the last decade or so. I wonder if anyone has retconned Mayan history into them having a solar observatory and been aware of the 11 year solar cycle, and how it would peak in 2012, destroying the Earth. Maybe they even had an x-ray satellite in orbit. I bet the aliens that helped them build their pyramids left them one. The grays are helpful, like that.

Perhaps the most ironic part of this entire saga is that the 2012 solar cycle peak is forecast to be extremely low. Here’s the latest forecast and current progress through the cycle, click to enlarge it:

The peak smoothed sunspot number (SSN) is forecast to be about 60, vs the 120 for the previous cycle. The lower peak SSN means lower overall solar activity. That means fewer flares, and they should (overall) be less severe. The peak is also forecast to be in 2013, so I’m not sure how that works out for all the 2012 Doomsayers.

To put this further into context, here’s a graph showing all the previous solar cycles:

The red arrow points to the cycle peaking in 1928, the forecast at the time (2009) was that the cycle we’re in now would be similar to that one, it’s since turned out that activity is even lower.

The largest peak is Cycle 19, from the 1950s. Many older ham radio operators have fond memories of Cycle 19, when radio propagation conditions were excellent. They were hoping for a repeat with Cycle 24, but that is clearly not the case. And Cycle 25 is currently being forecast by some to be even lower than Cycle 24, although it’s not worth putting much, if any, stock into long range solar cycle predictions. Predictions for our current cycle (24) from just a few years ago had it being as strong as, or even stronger than, the previous cycle, which is clearly not the case.

The period marked as the Maunder Minimum on the above graph was a period of extremely low solar activity around the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were noted during this time period.

While we are indeed entering the peak of a solar cycle, which means more solar flares (and more powerful flare), which can have impacts on the Earth, I believe the historical evidence shows that the doomsday scenarios proposed by many alarmists are not warranted. I would suggest checking with various websites such as http://www.spaceweather.com/ to keep track of when a solar flare has occurred. Not to panic that the end is near, but to know when to go outside and look at the Northern Lights. They can be quite beautiful.

The Effects of an M8 Solar Flare

We had an M8.4 solar today, commencing at 1715 UTC, and ending at, well, it still seems to be going on, the x-ray flux level is still C3 at 2300 UTC.

The effects were rather dramatic, for those of us on the sunlit side of the Earth. First, here’s a graph of the x-ray intensities of the flare itself, as measured by the GOES-15 weather satellite (in geosynchronous orbit around the Earth):

The effects were dramatic, virtually all of HF was completely silent here, just static. The intense x-rays from the flare caused strong ionization of the D layer of the ionosphere. The D layer absorbs radio waves, it does not reflect them like the E and F layers that we rely on for shortwave propagation.

Here’s a graph showing the absorption at HF radio frequencies caused by the flare, as displayed by DX ToolBox:

You can view the signal strengths for various frequencies as recorded by my dedicated SDR setup here: http://www.hfunderground.com/propagation Take a look at various stations such as CFRX 6070 kHz and CHU 7850 kHz, and see how they completely faded out during the flare. They also are not present at night, which is normal.