WSPR propagation reports are really useful in checking ionospheric activity. Get started by using WSPR on OpenWebRX internet connected monitoring stations.
You can use several techniques for figuring out how propagation is working on various high frequency bands. One is to simply listen for expected reception of certain stations. For example, I check out All India Radio every morning on 11.560 MHz. If I can hear it, I know that polar paths out of Calgary have not been closed by geomagnetic activity.
But perhaps the neatest approach is monitoring WSPR, the Weak Signal Propagation Reporter. Hams have been WSPRing for the past ten years. WSPR is another of the great weak signal modes available through Joe Taylor and Princeton’s WSJT-X software.
Hams use WSPR by putting very low power beacons on the air. Typically, these beacons run between 0.01 to 5 Watts. That’s right. Many of these beacons transmit in the milliwatt range. Hams transmit these beacons on regular frequencies from DC to daylight, from 136 kHz to 1.2965 GHz.
WSPR propagation beacons use very, very slow frequency shift keying. Each transmission lasts for nearly two minutes, and the message includes geographic location and transmitter power in dBm. Occupied bandwidth is only 6 Hz. Timing is usually synchronized using GPS.
WSPR Propagation using OpenWebRX
If you are running WSJT-X, checking WSPR propagation is easy. But you might want to try the WSPR implementation built into OpenWebRX. This gives you access to hundreds of KiwiSDR monitoring stations around the world.
The graphic above shows me checking 30 meter WSPR on an Alberta monitoring station using a 1 meter loop antenna. The WSPR extension is activated with one click, and provides visual signal display, as well as decoding in the lower left. The results give me a pretty good indication of 30 meter propagation.
With signals occupying only a 6 Hz bandwidth, signals with only a few milliwatts of transmit power get decoded easily.