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HF

Radio Wave Prop

agation

 
 

Introduction

 

 

Unders

 

tanding

radio

wave

propagation

can

 

mean

 

the

 

differe

nc

e

between making and missing

a

 

c

ontact

to

a

parti

c

ul

ar

part

 

of the world.

 

This

presentation

examines HF propagat

ion

HF

re

gi

on

s

p

ans 3 to 30 MHz.

 

T

h

i

s

inc

l

udes the 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, and

1

0

meter

b

ands.

T

h

e

only MF amateur band, 160m, will not be discus

se

d,

no

r

 

will bands above 10 meters.

 
 

Overview of HF Propagation

 

 

Char

a

cteristics of HF radio propagation

     

Prop

agation is possible over thousands of

mi

les.

It

i

s

hi

g

hly

variable. It has daily and seaso

nal

variati

on

,

as

wel

l

a

s

a

much

longer 11 year cycle.

 

HF

r

a

d

io

waves

may

travel

by

any

o

f

the

fo

llowing

modes:

Gr

und Wave

o Direct Wave (line-of-sight)

Sky Wave

 

Ground Waves

 

In

the

HF region, the ground is a poor conductor

and

   

the

ground

wave is quickly attenuated by gr

ound

los

ses

.

Som

e

ground

wave communication is pos

sib

le

on

80m

,

but

at

frequencies above 5 MHz, the

g

round

wave

i

s

irrelevant

.

 

Direct Waves

 

 

Direct

waves

follow

the

line-of-sight

path

betwee

 

n

transmitter

and

receiver.

In

order

for

 

direct

wav

e

communic

ation

to occur, antennas at both

ends

of

the

path

have

to

have low angles of radiation

(

s

o

they

c

an

see”

ea

ch

other). This is difficult to

do

on

the

lower

bands,

and

as a result, direct wave communication

is

norm

ally

restricted to bands above 20m.

Its

ran

g

e

i

s

determ

ined by the height of both antennas and ge

n

e

r

ally

les

s

than 20 miles.

 

Sky Waves

 

Sky

 

waves are waves that leave the transmitting

antenn

a

in

a

s

traig

h

t

line

and are returned

to

the

ea

rth

at

a

consi

derable

distance by an electrically

ch

arge

d

layer

known

as

the

ionosphere. Communi

c

ati

on

is

poss

ible

thro

u

gho

ut

much

of the day to almost

an

ywhere

in

the

world

vi

a

sky

wave.

 
 

The Ionosphere

 

   

Create

d

by ionization of the upper

 

atmosphere

   

by

the

sun.

 

E

l

e

ctric

al

ly

active as a result of

the

i

oniz

at

ion.

Be

nds

and

attenuates HF radio waves

Above

200 MHz, the ionosphere becom

es

completely

trans

parent

 

C

reates most propagation phenomena observed

at

HF,

 

MF, LF and VLF frequencies

 
 

The Ionosphere

 

Con

sis

 

ts

of

 

4

highly ionized regions

                 

T

h

e

D

l

ayer

a

t

a height of 38 – 55 mi

   

T

h

e

E

l

ayer

at

a

height of 62 – 75 mi

T

h

e

F

1

l

ay

er

at

a height of 125 –150 mi (win

ter)

an

d

1

60

1

8

0

mi

(summer)

T

h

e

F2

l

ayer at a height of 150 – 180 mi (winter)

and

24

0

2

6

0

mi

(summer)

 

The density of ionization is greatest in the F layers and

least in the D layer

 
The Ionosphere
The Ionosphere
 

The Ionosphere

 

Tho

u

gh

   

created by solar radiation, it does not

 

comp

l

 

etely

disappear shortly after sunset.

     

T

h

e

D

an

d

E

layers disappear very qui

c

kly

aft

e

r

sun

s

et

.

T

h

e

F1

and

F

2

layers do not disappear,

b

ut

merg

e

i

nto

a

s

ingl

e F layer residing at a distance of

1

5

0

2

50

mi

above the earth.

 

Ions

recombine much faster at lower altitudes.

 

Recombination at altitudes of 200 mi is slow

 

slow that the F layer lasts until dawn.

 
 

The D-Layer

 

 

Ext

e

nds from 38 – 55 miles’ altitude.

       

Is

c

r

eat

ed

at sunrise, reaches maximum density

at

noon,

and

dis

appears by sunset.

   

The

D

layer

plays

only

a

negative

r

ole

i

n

HF

communic

ations.

 
 

It

acts

as

an

attenuator, absorbing the

radio

s

ignal

s,

rather

than

returning them to earth.

 

The

abs

orption is inversely proportional to the s

qu

ar

e

of

the

frequency, severely restricting communications

on

the

lower HF bands during daylight.

 
 

The E layer

 

Ext

e

nds

from 38 – 55 miles’ altitude.

     

Is

create

d

 

at

sunrise, reaches maximum density

 

at

noon,

and

dis

appears

by sunset.

 

It

can

return

lowe

   

the

Earth,

res

ulting

r HF frequencies to

in

dayt

im

e

short

skip on the lower HF bands

.

   

It

has

very

little effect on higher frequency

HF

radio

wav

e

s

,

other than to change slightly their

direction

of

travel.

 
 

The F Layers

 

The

F1

l

ay

er

extends from 125 –150 mi (winter)

and

160

180

mi

(s

ummer

)

 

The

F2

layer

extends from 150 – 180

m

i

(winter)

and

240

260

mi

(s

ummer)

   

The

F

layers are primarily responsible for

l

ong

-haul

HF

communications.

 

Be

cause there is only F layer ionization throughout

the

hours

of

darkness,

it

is

carries

almost

all

nighttime

communications over intercontinental distances.

The Critical Frequency (f c ) • When radio waves are trans mitted towards straight up
The Critical Frequency (f c )
When
radio
waves
are
trans mitted
towards
straight
up
the
ionosphere
(verti c al i nc i dence), the radio
wave will be returne d to earth
at al l frequenc i es below the
criti cal fr equency, (f c ) .
The
critical
frequency
dep ends on the degree of
ionization of the ionosphere,
as
s hown
equation:
in
the
following
N
e
f
=
cr
10
1.24 *10
Maximum Usable Frequency (MUF) • Ge nerally, radio waves leave the transmitting antenna at angles of
Maximum Usable Frequency (MUF)
Ge nerally, radio waves leave the transmitting antenna at angles
of 0 to 30 degrees and hit the ionosphere obliquely, requ iring
less bending be returned to earth, thus frequencies above the
criti cal fr equency can be returned.
The maximum frequency returned at a 0 takeoff angl e is called
the m a ximum us ab le frequency (MUF). The critical frequen cy
and the MUF are r e l ated by the following equation:
f
cr
MUF =
2
R
1
R h
+
whe re R = earth’s radius and h = height of the ionosph ere :
Typical MUF values:
– 15 – 40 MHz (daytime)
– 3 – 14 MHz(nighttime)
M aximum Usable Frequency (MUF)
M aximum Usable Frequency (MUF)
Hop Geometry • The l ong est hop p oss ibl e o n the HF
Hop Geometry
The l ong est hop
p oss ibl e o n the HF
b ands is
app ro xim a tel y
2 50 0 mil es
Lo nger di st anc es
are cove red by
mult i ple hop
p ropagat i on. When
the r e fr acted radio
w a ve returns to
earth, it is reflected
back up towards
the ionosphere,
which begins
another hop.
 

Daily Propagation Effects

 

 

Shortly after sunrise, the D and E layers are formed and the

 

F

l

ay

er splits into two parts.

 

The

D layer acts as a selective absorber, attenuating low

frequency

s

ign

al

s

,

making frequencies below 5 or 6 MHz useless

 

during

the

day

for

DX

work.

 

The

E

and

F1 layers increase steadily

in

intensit

y

fr

o

m

sunrise

to

noon

and then decreases thereaft

er.

Short

s

kip

pr

   

s

when

the

l

ocal

time

at

o

pagation via the E or F1 layer

the

 

ionospheric

 

refraction point is approximately

noon

.

       

The

M

UF

’s

for

the

E

and

F1

layers are about

5

and

10

MHz

re

sp

ectively.

 

The

F2

layer is sufficiently ionized to HF radio

w

aves

and

return

them to earth.

 

For

MUF’s is above 5 - 6 MHz, long distance communicati

ons

are

 

possible.

 
 

MUF’s falls below 5 MHz, the frequencies that can be returned by the

 

F layer are completely attenuated by the D layer.

 
 

Daily Band Selection

 

   

During the daylight hours:

 

1

5,

  • 12 ,

and 10m for multi-hop DX.

4

0,

  • 30 ,

  • 2 0

and 17m, for short skip.

A

fter

dark

 

8

0,

  • 40 ,

  • 3 0

and 20m for DX.

 

N

o

ise

levels

on

80m can

make

working

across

 

continents very difficult.

 
 

Seasonal Propagation Effects

 

During the winter months, the atmosphere is colder

and

denser

.

The

i

on

o

sphere moves closer to the earth

increas

ing

the

elec

tron

dens

ity.

 

During

the

the

   

Northern Hemispher

e

wi

nter,

the

earth

m

ake

s

its

clos

e

st

approach to the sun, which

increases

the

intens

ity

o

f

the UV radiation striking the ionosphere.

El

e

ctr

on

density during the northern hemisphere

winter

can

be

5 times greater than summer’s.

 

W

inter MUF’s are approximately double summer’s.

 

Seasonal Band Selection

 

 

During Winter:

 

20,

1

7,15, 12, and 10m for daytime DX

.

   

80,

4

0,

30 and possible 20m for DX

after

d

ark.

During

Summer

 

20,

1

7

and 15m for daytime DX.

40,

3

0m and 20m after dark.

 
 

Geographical Variation

 

The

s

un’

s

ionizing

radiation

is

most

inte

n

se

   

i

n

the

equatorial

r

egions and least intense in the polar

regions

.

Daytim

e

MUF

of the

E

and

F1 layer

s

i

s

highe

s

t

in

the

trop

i

cs.

Pol

ar

region MUF’s for these

l

ay

ers

c

an

be

three

times

lowe

r

.

 

The

F

2

layer shows a more complex geographical

MUF

variati

on.

While equatorial F2 MUF’s are general

ly

higher

that

polar F2 MUF’s, the highest F2 MUF often

oc

curs

s

omewhere near Japan and the lowest over Scandinavia.

 

Effects of Sunspots

 

A

sunspot is a cool region on the sun’s surface that

   

res

e

mbles a dark blemish on the sun.

 

The

 

number of sunspots observed on the sun’s

surface

foll

ow

s

an

     

11

year cycle.

Sunspots

have

intense

magnetic

fie

l

ds.

T

hes

e

fiel

ds

energize

 

the

c

hrom

osphere,

a

r

egi

on

of the sun known as

which

lies

j

us

t

above the sun’s surface.

M

ore

ul

traviolet

   

radiati

on

i

s

emitted, which increases the electron

dens

ity

in

the

earth’s atmosphere.

 

The

additional radiation affects primarily the F2

layer.

During periods of peak sunspot activity, such as December

2001 or February 1958 the F2 MUF can rise to more than

50 MHz.

 
 

Effects of Sunspots

 

 

Dur

ing

sunspot maxima, the highly ion

i

zed

 

F2

 

lay

er

acts

like a mirror, refracting the

 

higher

HF

fr

equencie

s

(

above 20 MHz) with

a

lm

o

st

no

los

s.

C

onta

cts

on

th

e 15, 12 and 10m bands

in

exce

s

s

o

f

10

,

0

00

m

iles can be made using 10 watts

or le

ss.

Dur

ing

short summer evenings, the MUF

can

stay

abov

e 14 MHz. The 20 m band stays open to

so

me

point in the world around the clock.

 
 

Effects of Sunspots

 

 

When

the

 

sun

is

very

active, it

is possibl

e

t

o

 

have

back

scatter propagation either from the ionosphere

or

t

he

aurora

 

l

 

re

gions.

     

Ba

c

ks

c

att

e

r

c

ommunication is unique

i

n

that

the

st

at

ions

i

n

contact

d

o

not point their antennas

at

e

a

ch

othe

r,

but

i

nstead

at

the

region of high ionization i

n

the

ionosphere

or

t

ow

ards

the north (or south in the other

hem

isphere)

magnetic pole.

 

D

uring periods of high solar activity, the auroral

z

one

may expand to the south, approaching the US-Canadian

border in North America, and covering Scandinavia in

Europe.

 
The Northern Auroral Zone
The Northern Auroral Zone
 

Effects of Sunspots

 

 

During a sunspot minimum, the chromosphere

i

s

very

quiet

and its UV emissions are very low.

 

F2

MUF’

s

decrease, rarely rising to 20 MHz

M

ost

lon

g

 

dis

tance communications must

be

carried

out

on

the

lower

HF

 

bands.

During

periods

of

   

high sunspot activity:

T

he

be

st

 

d

a

ytime bands are 12 and 10m.

At

ni

g

ht

,

the best bands are 20, 17 and 15m.

At

the

low end of the solar cycle,

 

T

h

e best daytime bands are 30 and 20m.

 

After dark, 40m will open for at least the early part of the

evening.

 

– In the early morning hours, only 80m will support worldwide

 

communications

 
 

Propagation Disturbances

 

A

 

s

olar flare is a plume of very hot gas ejected from

the

 

s

un’

s

surface.

 

It

rises

through the chromosphere into the coron

a,

 

di

s

turbi

ng

b

oth

regi

 

ons.

 

X-ray

e

mi

s

si

on from the corona increases, whi

ch

rea

ch

e

s

Earth

i

n

less

t

han

     

9

minutes.

If

they

are

in

ten

se

en

ough,

th

e

i

ono

sphe

re

w

i

ll

become so

dense that

 

all

HF

s

i

g

nal

s

are

 

ab

 

sorbe

 

d

b

y

i

t

 

and worldwide HF communic

ati

o

ns

are

bl

ack

ed

 

out

.

 

Large

numbers of charged particles are thrown

o

ut

into

sp

ac

e

at

hi

gh

velocity, reaching Earth in 2-3 days. The

parti

c

les

are

d

eflected by the geomagnetic field to the poles, expanding

th

e

auroral zones. Signals traveling through the auroral zone

ar

e

severely

distorted,

in

some

cases

to

the

point

of

 

unintelligibility

 

Generally speaking, ionospheric disturbances affect the

 

lowest HF bands most. Occasionally communications on

10

 

b

ibl