Friday, May 22, 2015

States You May Have Never Logged Before

As with most of us DXers here in the United States, I like to keep track of the number of U.S. states I've heard on AM, FM, TV (digital and analog) and NOAA Weather Radio. Being in the middle of the country does have some advantages, while it has some disadvantages.

On the AM broadcast band, for example, I began the DX season of 2014-15 with no AM stations in my logbook from New Mexico. I logged 18 FM stations, three analog TV stations and one NOAA Weather Radio station before the start of the AM broadcast band DX season. As I write this, the AM broadcast band DX logbook from The Land of Enchantment is now at three. In November, I caught KKIM 1000 in Albuquerque (yes, the city where Bugs Bunny forgets to make that left turn) operating at night on 10,000 watts daytime power. The signal was, at times, taking out WMVP (Chicago). Later that same month, I also caught KHAC 880 Tse Bonito (on the border with Arizona) operating on day power and pattern, giving WIJR (Highland, IL) and WCBS (New York) a run for the money. Off-season, I caught KCKN 1020 in Roswell on day pattern on May 21 at 0155 CDT (0655 UTC) giving KDKA (Pittsburgh, PA) a run for the money. On the AM broadcast band, there are no stations in my logbook from Delaware, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. A lot of DXers would say that my best bet for Idaho is KBOI 670 in Boise, but with my location being 255 miles (as the crow flies) from Chicago, and that Cuba also gives The Score a good run for the money, KBOI is probably an impossible catch from the St. Louis area. I don't see any realistic chance to hear the other unheard states unless at least one station in each state puts on a DX test. It's through DX tests that AM stations from Oregon, Rhode Island and the state of Washington are in my logbook. I simply don't see any realistic chance of hearing Alaska and Hawaii from the St. Louis area, given the distance from those two states. I've only heard Hawaii on shortwave, and have not heard Alaska on any band. I'll be happy with just the "Lower 48".

Speaking of the "Lower 48", the only states I have not heard on the FM band from my listening post in Hazelwood, MO (15 miles NW of St. Louis) are California and West Virginia. I'm within single-hop range of some of the desert towns, such as Needles and Blythe; El Centro may be a stretch. I'm easily within double-hop range of the coastal cities (especially San Francisco). Only AM and shortwave signals have been heard from the Golden State. West Virginia, by contrast, presents several other challenges. Part of that state is in the National Radio Quiet Zone. FM stations are required to restrict coverages in that area to protect radio astronomy interests from interference. The western part of the state is within tropo distance; most notably Huntington, Parkersburg and Wheeling. Charleston may be stretching it a bit. The eastern part of the state (Harper's Ferry, Martinsburg, Charles Town) is within E-skip range. While I have two analog TV stations (both from Huntington) and 11 AM stations in my logbook from "Almost Heaven", no FM station has entered my logbook from West Virginia.

Analog TV also presented some challenges. Before the transition to digital TV, I had locals on channels 2, 4 and 5. That made logging states like Maine on analog TV a real challenge. WLBZ Bangor, when it was in analog, was never logged due to local KTVI being parked there. Other states weren't logged because the lowest channel station in the state was either on high-band VHF or UHF. Analog TV stations weren't logged from Delaware, New Hampshire or New Jersey as a result. The lowest channel station, if my memory serves, in Delaware was on channel 14. The lowest channel stations in New Hampshire and New Jersey were both on channel 9. Before WWOR-TV moved its city of license from New York, NY to Secaucus, NJ, the lowest channel station in New Jersey was on 13 (non-commercial WNET Newark). Due to distance and channel placement, I also did not log California, Oregon or the state of Washington on analog TV from Hazelwood.

Digital TV seems to follow the same propagation characteristics as the analog counterpart, although I've received two states in digital (Maine and New Jersey) I never logged in analog format. I've logged WLBZ 2 Bangor, ME in digital format, along with WACP 4 Atlantic City, NJ. There have been close-in states to Missouri I have not yet logged in digital format, such as Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Digital TV from those two states will be logged eventually. I haven't yet pulled in a Nebraska digital TV station on tropospheric enhancement propagation., although I've pulled in KNOP 2 North Platte via E-skip propagation.

NOAA Weather Radio (162.400-162.550 MHz) also follows the same propagation characteristics. Given its high placement in the VHF spectrum, tropospheric enhancement is more common. The only close-in state to Missouri I have not yet logged a NOAA Weather Radio station from is Wisconsin. E-skip does reach this band on occasion; my first experience with E-skip on the NOAA Weather Radio band came in 2004, with the log of KHB38 162.400 Atlantic City, NJ. This type of propagation also allowed me to log Arizona, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Virginia on the NOAA Weather Radio band. The latter two states could also provide some tropospheric enhancement logs at some point, especially from western Pennsylvania and the Virginia panhandle.  

In the 23 years since I returned to the St. Louis area from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains northwest of Atlanta, GA, I've discovered several things about my present location. New England is a lot easier to hear via E-skip on the FM band as it is on the AM broadcast band. I've only heard five stations from that region: three from Massachusetts (all from the Boston area), one each from Connecticut (WTIC 1080 Hartford) and Rhode Island (a DX test from 1220 in Providence). The West Coast has been better heard on AM than on FM. At least once a year, the three former 1-A Clears from California (KFI 640 and KNX 1070 in Los Angeles, KNBR 680 in San Francisco) come in at Hazelwood. Three of the four AM stations I've logged from Washington and the lone AM in my logbook from Oregon have been logged thanks to DX tests. Oregon and Washington have also been logged on FM. The two Oregonians I've heard have been 98.7 in Nyssa via single-hop E-skip, and 101.9 in Portland via double-hop. The lone Washington state FM (94.1 in Clarkston) has been logged via single-hop E-skip.

Some states have been logged via more than one mode of propagation. On FM, for example, Georgia and North Carolina have been logged by three different modes of propagation (E-skip, tropospheric enhancement and meteor scatter). Utah has been logged on FM via E-skip and meteor scatter. Given my location, one part of a state can be heard or seen via tropospheric enhancement, while another part can be heard or seen via E-skip. Take Pennsylvania as an example. On analog TV, three stations have been logged via E-skip (two from Philadelphia and one from the State College area) and two via tropospheric enhancement (one from Erie and the other from Pittsburgh). Tropo is most common from the western part of the state, while E-skip is most common from the central and eastern parts of the Keystone State. Another example is South Dakota. The Rapid City area has been heard and seen via E-skip, while Sioux Falls and Aberdeen have been logged via tropospheric enhancement. One market has been logged by both tropospheric enhancement and E-skip: Pierre. I've logged two FMs via E-skip, a high-band VHF station via tropo, and a low-band VHF TV station by both propagation methods. Another market that has been logged by both tropospheric enhancement and E-skip is Buffalo, NY.

Getting back to AM broadcast band DX, the sun's position can also have an effect on DX. At one hour before local sunrise or one hour before local sunset, eastern AM stations tend to pop in over the closer-in stations. For example, I was on 610 one night in November 2014, and nulled out KCSP Kansas City, MO to hear CKTB Saint Catharines, ON. On 1060 at that time of day, I could conceivably hear WILB Canton, OH over closer-in WMCL McLeansboro, IL. One hour after sunrise and one hour after sunset is when you'll likely find western AM stations still on day power and/or pattern. For example, if you're parked on 1040, there's a chance you could hear KCBR Monument, CO with WHO Des Moines, IA nulled until about an hour after sunset. Again, it's dependent on your location. In the Midwest, the best time to try for those difficult-to-hear eastern states (especially those in New England) is around one hour before sunset or one hour before sunrise, depending on conditions, or one to two hours after sunset for the difficult-to-hear western states (such as Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah or Wyoming).

As I write this, I've logged 1,605 AM, 1,288 FM, 579 analog TV, 166 digital TV and 120 NOAA Weather Radio stations. Nobody knows what new stations and new states you will hear in the years to come.

New Aircheck Page

I've finally decided to put my aircheck collection into a separate Box account from my DX. In the coming months, I intend to digitize my aircheck collection, which I collected in trades and from the markets I've lived in (St. Louis, MO and Atlanta, GA) as well as places I've visited (like Portland, OR). The first two airchecks to be uploaded are both from 1989, WLTJ 92.9 Pittsburgh, PA and WSNL 101.1 East St. Louis, IL. Both of these airchecks are unscoped. All airchecks in the collection I am uploading are unscoped.

Stay tuned for more airchecks.