The year 2020 started with outstanding tropospheric VHF propagation here in southern Germany. For the first time I was able to copy the VHF beacon GB3NGI from Northern Irland at a stunning distance of 1300km. Read more about this great opening and listen to the audio recording I made.

VHF propagation phenomenons

Radio signal propagation on VHF is normally limited to a few hundred kilometers, at most. However sometimes extraordinary physical effects extend temporarily the effective range well above 1000km. The two most common effects are:

  1. Sporadic-E, when radio waves are reflected on small patches of unusually dense ionization within the E-layer of the ionosphere.
  2. Tropospheric propagation, when layers of hot / cold air create ducts or cause refraction.

Beacons

In a nutshell, radio beacons are automated transmitters with a known location. They are used heavily in navigation, but also Amateur radio operators rely on them as indicators for extraordinary propagation. In Europe we fortunately have a respective amount of active VHF/UHF/SHR radio beacons. Most of the amateur radio beacons operate with modest power (1 - 20 watts) and omnidirectional or large beamwidth antennas.

My setup

My setup for 144 MHz is average. I have a single directional 11el Yagi antenna on a 6m long boom just two meters above the roof. The station is located in the Maidenhead locator JN48QM at 700m above sea level. I am lucky to have a free takeoff with no obstacles in all directions.

Figure 1: My 11el Yagi antenna for 144MHz on top of a 2el Tribander for HF (FB-23)

Figure 1: My 11el Yagi antenna for 144MHz on top of a 2el Tribander for HF (FB-23)

My lucky morning

While on a normal day I copy between 2-3 beacons, in the early morning hours of the 01.01.2020 I was able to copy a total of 8 radio beacons at the same time.

Figure 2: 144MHz spectrum view with 8 visible radio beacons as copied in JN48

Figure 2: 144MHz spectrum view with 8 visible radio beacons as copied in JN48

Here is the list of the beacons I was able to copy:

Frequency Beacon Location Distance
144.404 MHz DB0THE JO51EL 336km
144.414 MHz DB0JW JO40EK 303km
144.435 MHz DB0LBV JO61EH 377km
144.444 MHz DB0FGB JO50WB 249km
144.454 MHz DB0MMO JN49RV 153km
144.463 MHz DF0ANN JN59PL 175km
144.474 MHz DB0HRF JO40FF 175km
144.482 MHz GB3NGI IO65VB 1290km

Obviously, GB3NGI was the biggest surprise at a stunning distance of almost 1300km. Find below the recorded audio:

I'm licensed now for more than 20 years, but this was the first time that I was able to observe such outstanding VHF Tropo propagation. I guess 2020 really started great for me!