The Sun Takes Aim at Earth…

Space weather is interesting to hams because the “mood” of the sun affects ham radio in all kinds of interesting ways.

From creating the different layers of the ionosphere that bounces HF waves back to earth and makes communications possible, to disrupting those same waves with geomagnetic storms, to sunspots cycles affecting the day to day propagation conditions.

Abd then there are the CME’s.. (Coronal Mass Ejections), which is where a big arm of plasma is tossed off the surface of the sun out into space.

Much of the time, these fire harmlessly in a direction other than right at us, but a few days ago a CME fired right at us. It took a couple of days to travel and start to smack the earth, but this morning in the early AM, that arm of energy finally struck the planet.

Among the effects that were noted of this CME were:

  • Aurora Borealis appearing in the skies much further south than normal, including parts of Oregon, Wyoming, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan.
  • A huge decrease in signal propagation in the HF bands.
  • Fluctuations in the power grid strength

Add a Bizarre Wind Over Mesa

Another potential effect that I suspect was caused by the incoming CME happened last night.

A pretty hefty wind came up around 8pm and started rattling the windows. This lasted HOURS, into the early morning, but without rain, thunder, or clouds of any kind.

Now I’m a watcher of patterns– I notice things that are different from what usually happens and this wind struck me as weird because it didn’t follow the pattern I’m used to.

The reason I found it weird is that there was no accompanying thunderstorm, and it lasted a long time.

Usually when the windows start to rattle like that, thunderclouds, lightening, and heavy monsoon type rains are not far behind. I also usually hear sort of an echoing quality in the sky, as if all the sound is being trapped close to the earth and bounced around. Landing jets approaching the area airports sound like they are really close, for example.

That’s always my que to pull in the antennas before it storms.

But we didn’t get a drop of rain! And the windows were still rattling at 3am non-stop. (And no, it was not a haboob hitting. There was no dust, and haboobs around here typically last only an hour or two around sundown.)

Teeny Tiny Fifteen Meter Signal Report Pictures

The sky also seemed visually weird this morning– maybe it was just me, or the start of fall, but the light seemed misty looking. Like there had been a fog that was still burning off.

After a while, I put the antennas back out and climbed onto my fifth HF band for the third day. (My friend, Norm, picked up a 15m hamstick for me while he was at HRO last week and gave it to me on Saturday at lunch.)

What I saw on my signal reports was interesting but made a lot of sense considering the amount of coronal mass energy the earth’s magnetic field had just deflected and was still roiling with.

Here are a few of the screenshots showing how little propagation was happening today:

Good Contacts Even with Bad Conditions

Surprisingly, I actually made a fair number of contacts today, including in South America in spite of the terrible conditions.

There were just a tiny number of stations on the band activity each FT8 cycle, and so I think we were all desperate to work any station we could see and pounced hard! (Lol).

I had to use more power than usual also– I rarely run at or above 50w with my 100w radios, but today I had to go to 50w and beyond to complete a few QSO’s. Signal strength I received from stations during the course of the exchange was also fluttering all over the place rapidly.

Space weather was never so interesting when I wasn’t trying to work around it!