20 Meters has changed. The morning path to Asia is history, though some polar contacts to the Far East are still possible. DXing in the morning is mostly to Europe, while the opening to Asia has moved to the late afternoon. Evening DX is mostly gone, and the lowband season has begun.
We must now think of 20 as a daypath band, though we are approaching October and there are other options. Remember 15 Meters? Though we still have a few years to wait until this band really comes back to life, at the bottom of the sunspot cycle it has a seasonal peak in October. It doesn't get any better, and with so many months of inactivity most are surprised to find the band open at all. The season will be short, and it usually takes a few weekends for people to realize that paths are open. By the end of CQWW SSB everyone will know, but now is the time to include 15 into your DX stalking routine. In order for contacts to be made, somebody has to call CQ. Watch for Europe and Africa in the morning, and Asia and the Pacific in the afternoon. Also try 17 and 20 Meters for the same paths. The signals will be best closer to the maximum unsable frequency, which at this time of the year is fairly high.
20 Meters can still be used for long haul paths across areas where the band remains open into the evening and night. The southern hemisphere will be opening up some of the long path circuits for us, but they are not nearly as reliable as at the peak of the cycle. The morning path to Africa is a summer path and is on its way out. From W5, we watch for the Middle East and Europe in the morning, and Australia & the Far East in late afternoon. Paths over the north pole have narrowed, and will confine themselves more to grey line areas as winter approaches.
In the evening, most stateside activity has already moved to lower frequencies. The low end of 40 is a good place to find African pileups and good signals from Europe. As more darkness envelopes the northern hemisphere, access into eastern areas of Europe and Russia will improve. Nighttime MUF's are still fairly high, which is good. In midwinter, the MUF across the European path drops below 7 MHz and we rely more on sunrise and sunset peaks for openings. Europeans should be workable for much of the evening as long as operators are awake over there. Activity is also picking up on 80 Meters now, and summer is not officially over yet! Fall DX is here - enjoy some today...
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