A quick listen to certain shortwave stations will tell you how well HF is going to work that day. Here’s my simple way of checking propagation.
What’s the first station you listen to when you get up in the morning? For me, it’s All India Radio on 11,560 kHz from Bangalore. Why so? I have found it a great way of checking propagation conditions on shortwave.
Normally, I am up and having my first coffee well before 8 a.m. in Calgary, or 1400 UTC. Yes, I know this is sleeping in a bit, but why not when you are retired? Anyway, I enjoy All India Radio and its many external service broadcasts.
Between 1400-1530 AIR puts out 500 KW on 11,560. While beamed towards northwest from India, reception here in western Canada is quite decent. Program content is in Pashto, the national language in Afghanistan, but also spoken in Pakistan and parts of Iran. AIR’s Bangalore site has six 500 kilowatt transmitters, so it’s a good source for great signals if you are checking propagation.
Now to be fair, I don’t speak a word of Pashto, but I enjoy the sound and the great music.
Unfortunately, due to pressures of the lock down in India during the COVID-19 pandemic, All India Radio has suspended operation of its external services division (ESD). So my favorite signal for checking propagation each morning has disappeared. Hope it’s back soon.
Checking Propagation – Why Bangalore?
During times of low sunspot activity, propagation on HF is mainly a function of geomagnetic activity, most often measured every three hours by the Kp Index which ranges from 0 to 9. You will find that higher Kp indicates more unsettled or stormy magnetic conditions in the ionosphere. These, in turn, indicate greater absorption of radio signals by the D layer, especially over polar paths.
To get from Bangalore to Calgary, an Indian radio signal travels northeast over the north pole and passes twice through the auroral oval before arriving at my antenna.
When geomagnetic conditions are settled (Kp 0 or 1) my morning reception of AIR on 11,560 kHz is perfect, with signal to noise ratios often 50 dB or better. As the ionosphere becomes unsettled at Kp 2 or 3, the Indian signal flutters more and becomes weaker. When the Kp gets above 3, it disappears.
So, a quick listen with my daily morning coffee gives me a pretty good idea of what HF conditions will be for the rest of the day.