QST de W1AW
Propagation Forecast Bulletin 7 ARLP007
From Tad Cook, K7RA
Seattle, WA February 13, 2004
To all radio amateurs
SB PROP ARL ARLP007
ARLP007 Propagation de K7RA
Solar flux and sunspot numbers were up slightly this week, and average planetary A index was down a little. Unfortunately, this isn't likely a trend, at least over the long term. The NOAA SEC Preliminary Report and Forecast for February 10 (at http://www.sec.noaa.gov/weekly/pdf/prf1484.pdf) still shows us a few years past the peak of Cycle 23 and a few years until the bottom. These charts are on pages 13 and 14. Note the forecast still shows the 10.7 cm solar flux minimum (a measure of energy at 2.8 GHz) predicted for September 2006 through April 2007, and the sunspot number minimum around December 2006 through January 2007. Note that a year from now we might see half the sunspots we see now, and the next cycle isn't predicted to be back to the February 2005 level until the end of 2007. These are all guesses based on past cycles, and the numbers are smoothed using a moving average. We won't know when the cycle minimum occurred until several years after it has passed.
Over the next few days expect solar flux to stay around 110, then gradually decline toward 100, where it should stay until around February 22. Due to a coronal hole and a solar wind stream, geomagnetic conditions should remain unsettled to active.
Mike Caughran, KL7R asked about lousy 40 and 80 meter conditions in Alaska during periods of high geomagnetic activity. He has never been active during a complete solar cycle, but recalls years ago as a Novice working 80 meter CW all night long under quiet conditions. (Note that at his QTH in Juneau, tonight will be 15 hours long and around Christmas, it was nearly 18 hours from sunset to sunrise). He thought perhaps by now the sun would have quieted down, and asks when the lower HF frequencies will return to normal.
Normally geomagnetic conditions are quite active after a peak in the sunspot cycle, although this time it seems to be holding up quite long. It should turn down some time soon, but there is really no way to know exactly when. Any guesses are based on past solar cycles. If you look at the link to the NOAA SEC site above, on page 15 you'll see a graph of planetary A index, an average of geomagnetic indices from around the world. The graph shows the past ten years, and note that at the sunspot cycle peak around 2000 the progression of the planetary A index was just getting ramped up. Studying the graph, we can see that if the previous solar cycle peaked around 1990-1991, the dramatic drop in Ap index must have occurred about 3-4 years later. Based on that, perhaps we are on the way down already. Just like with the peak or bottom of the solar cycle, we won't know until it has passed and can study the charts.
By the way, the gentleman who asked the question this week has a nice page at http://www.qsl.net/kl7r/ that is largely devoted to QRP. Don't miss KL7R's photo of a QRP transceiver he built inside a Microsoft mouse.
For more information concerning propagation and an explanation of the numbers used in this bulletin see the Propagation page on the ARRL Web site at http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/propagation.html.
Sunspot numbers for February 5 through 11 were 109, 98, 92, 74, 81, 78 and 91 with a mean of 89. 10.7 cm flux was 105.5, 106.7, 111.1, 116.2, 117.8, 116.5 and 114.2, with a mean of 112.6. Estimated planetary A indices were 14, 21, 11, 8, 8, 9 and 26, with a mean of 13.9.