September is usually a month of dramatic seasonal improvement on the high bands. In addition, this year we are beginning to see substantial improvement in solar activity. As I write this the solar flux is over 100, and has been in the 80's and 90's for the past couple weeks. The sunspot pundits are jumping up and down, as it definitely looks like the new 11-year cycle is underway.
The current levels of activity are not sufficient to open 10 Meters, but we can look forward to an improved season on 15 (and 17). The season will peak during October, and it is time to start watching this band now - maybe even call some optimistic CQs. 15 tends to surprise us at sunspot minimums with unexpectedly good conditions in the CQ World Wide Phone Contest. Even so, conditions last year were very marginal as the cycle was at rock bottom. This fall season, watch for signals from Europe in the morning and initially expect the best openings to the westernmost areas (especially Spain & Portugal). From W5 we should not anticipate pipeline conditions to all of Europe yet, but there are many well equipped stations in Eastern Europe that will easily get through. Significant openings to Russia are not expected from here, but the US east coast will have a different perspective. Stations in western North America will miss much of this action, but can look for improved conditions into Asia.
Conditions on 20 are off from recent months due to a declining nighttime MUF. The improved flux levels will help keep the band open, as it does not take much solar activity to bring dramatic improvement on this band. Flux levels of about 120 are sufficient to provide good nightpath conditions for much of the year, but we are not there yet. We are currently in transition between summer and winter conditions, ie. from nightpath to daypath openings across northern latitudes. Europeans are workable through much of the day, but conditions are usually marginal. The best window to Asia begins in late afternoon and lasts into the evening. This opening will improve and eventually peak around sunset. Any improvement in solar activity will also help long path propagation, so the morning Antarctic path should be watched.
40 Meters is predictably is great shape, and the higher solar activity will help this band (especially through the winter). For now, we can enjoy a broad opening to Europe and Russia beginning in late afternoon. Signals from the well equipped stations are loud, and the weaker ones are very workable. The Asian opening begins well after midnight (around 0800Z) as sunset approaches Japan. The 80 Meter season is only beginning, but equinox time provides optimum opportunities for contacts into the southern hemisphere because atmospheric static is at moderate levels at both ends of the path.
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