QST de W1AW
Propagation Forecast Bulletin 51 ARLP051
From Tad Cook, K7RA
Seattle, WA December 12, 2003
To all radio amateurs
SB PROP ARL ARLP051
ARLP051 Propagation de K7RA
Declining sunspot numbers and high geomagnetic activity made rough conditions this week. Average daily sunspot numbers for the week dropped 57% from the previous week, and average daily solar flux was down by 34%. The average daily planetary A index more than tripled to 28.7.
Currently earth is inside a high-speed solar wind. The interplanetary magnetic field points north, and geomagnetic conditions would be even more active if it pointed south. The wind is from a large coronal hole, and the stream began affecting earth on December 8. There aren't any sunspots currently facing the earth, and sunspot 517 is leaving the visible solar disk, while 520 and 521 are coming around the opposite limb.
The active region that caused all the wild space weather in October and November is around sunspot 488, which is now crossing the sun's far side. Its return to the earth side should cause a rise in the sunspot and solar flux numbers. Solar flux is expected to stay below 100 until next Tuesday, December 16, and then rise suddenly from December 18-19, next Thursday and Friday.
Unfortunately, conditions should be rough for the ARRL 10 Meter Contest this weekend. Predicted solar flux values for Friday through Monday, December 12-15, are 85, 90, 90 and 95. Predicted planetary A index numbers for the same period are 40, 35, 25 and 20.
10-meter paths really need a high MUF value to sustain them, and the low sunspot numbers we're seeing now don't help. You can get an idea how conditions might differ from past years by trying some historic numbers on the W6ELprop program, mentioned frequently in past bulletins.
For this weekend, a path from California to Cleveland (W6 to W8 in the program's atlas) using a flux of 90 and K index of 4 would yield a rather narrow opening, probably only reliable from 1800-1900z. A path from Dallas to Brazil (W5 to PY in the atlas) shows a poor probability for a path (although Seattle to PY looks much better).
On the ARRL website you can sample values from past bulletins at http://www.arrl.org/w1aw/prop/. Looking back at 2002 to bulletin number 53, the average solar flux for Friday through Sunday of the 10-meter contest weekend was 185, and the K index must have been quite low, because planetary A indices were 7, 11 and 9.
Using the flux value of 185 and a K index of 2, the California to Cleveland path looked fantastic from 1530 through 2330z, and the other paths looked much better as well. What a difference a year can make in a changing solar cycle. As mentioned in past bulletins, you can download the W6ELprop software free at http://www.qsl.net/w6elprop/.
Sunspot numbers for December 4 through 10 were 115, 88, 87, 53, 49, 23 and 46 with a mean of 65.9. 10.7 cm flux was 115.8, 111.7, 108.9, 92, 93.7, 92.2 and 89.2, with a mean of 100.5. Estimated planetary A indices were 9, 43, 22, 15, 39, 31 and 42, with a mean of 28.7.