Sunday the 22nd of March 2020
The news headlines:
Coronavirus affects amateur radio events worldwide
RSGB Board changes AGM arrangements
BATC offers free streaming & chat service
There is no doubt that these are challenging times. However, licensed radio amateurs have a great way of keeping in touch with one another across the world. Clubs and groups are launching virtual meetings to make sure no-one feels isolated in the coming weeks. We have also seen radio amateurs step up with extra nets and repeater check-ins to provide welfare checks on all local amateurs. The RSGB has launched a new Coronavirus Updates page that brings together some of these great ideas as well as its important announcements. Take a look at www.rsgb.org/coronavirus-updates. RSGB General Manager, Steve Thomas, M1ACB explains more about how the RSGB is adapting to the fast-moving situation: “We took the decision to close the RSGB National Radio Centre earlier this week to help protect our staff, volunteers and visitors. You will also have seen announcements about changes to our AGM, exams and contests over recent days. During this difficult time, we have also been focused on protecting the welfare of our volunteer teams and the staff at RSGB HQ in Bedford. The majority of the sixteen RSGB staff are now working remotely but we will maintain a skeleton staff at the office, to receive deliveries, for as long as we can. Our staff have a very positive team spirit as they adjust to new working environments while we strive to maintain the usual services. We are still supporting Members and volunteers through the usual telephone and online services, so do continue to contact RSGB HQ in the usual way. Thank you for your support as we face these challenges together.”
In response to the government’s latest Covid-19 recommendations, the RSGB Board has changed the arrangements for the Society’s AGM due to take place on the 25th of April. The physical meeting in Birmingham will not take place, and the information that would have been made available at the AGM will now be made available online. The Resolutions to be voted on are on our website at www.rsgb.org/agm2020 where you will also find links to the Board candidate statements and to cast your vote. You should continue to vote online as normal. The accounts will be published on the 1st of April on the AGM web page. As you will not be able to vote in person at the AGM, please remember to vote online by 9 am on Thursday the 23rd of April. If you do not have the facility to vote online, you can request a postal vote by contacting RSGB HQ. Postal votes must be returned to Civica Election Services, in the envelope provided, to arrive there no later than 9 am on Thursday the 23rd of April. Please bear in mind that postal services may well be delayed so leave plenty of time if you need to vote in this way. Results of the voting will be published on the RSGB website and social media channels on Saturday the 25th of April. Trophy winners will be announced on the RSGB website and social media channels on Saturday the 25th of April. Arrangements to present the trophies in person will be made later. We appreciate that the AGM is an important date in the RSGB calendar and some Members have attended it regularly for many years. But the Board cannot ignore the current health climate and put Members, staff and volunteers at risk by continuing with the AGM as intended. Every effort will be made to hold the AGM as usual in 2021.
In order to support the worldwide amateur radio community during the Covid-19 virus pandemic, BATC is offering free use of the BATC Video Streaming Service and chat facility to any radio club or group of radio amateurs. This will enable clubs to hold virtual meetings with HD video and audio streaming and a chat window for real-time feedback and discussion. To enable this, the BATC is offering free one-year cyber membership to any radio club or group of radio amateurs. For details of how to apply, please go to the BATC website, https://batc.org.uk.
Following on from the exam announcement earlier this week, it has been decided that with immediate effect and until further notice, the RSGB Exam Department will not be accepting or processing any new exam bookings. If you have already carried out a practical assessment for a Foundation or Intermediate exam and it is still valid, the period of validity – normally one year – will be automatically extended by the length of time that we are not offering exams. Exams already booked can, of course, go ahead at the discretion of the club, or can be postponed until a future date. The RSGB recommends that all clubs carrying out exams, training and practical assessments should carry out a risk assessment to ensure they are not putting themselves or candidates at risk.
It is with regret that the HF and VHF Contest Committees have decided that, with immediate effect and until the end of June 2020, they will no longer accept multi-operator contest entries for any RSGB Contest. Single operator entries from shared stations will also not be accepted unless the station is being shared by family members living at the same postal address. The RSGB HF CW NFD Contest scheduled in June is cancelled for this year. They have decided not to ban portable operation by single operators because of the potential mental health benefits associated with engaging in hobbies as well as the lack of person-to-person contact in normal single operator contesting. However, they encourage everyone to follow the government guidelines regarding social distancing and unnecessary travel. They will review these rule changes regularly in line with the most recent government advice to determine if they need to extend or modify the restrictions. In early June they will decide if the VHF NFD, the IOTA Contest and SSB NFD can go ahead as planned.
The RSGB band plans are now available in a number of formats online at www.rsgb.org/bandplans. The page also includes a background article that was published in RadCom earlier this year. If you have any questions, please follow the web links to the RSGB Spectrum Managers, who can help.
Some advice from the Intruder Watch Co-ordinator next as the bands get busier. If you hear an HF intruder, please just note the date, time and exact frequency and report it to Intruder Watch, via email to email@example.com. Amateurs should never transmit over intruding signals in an attempt to disrupt them, no matter how frustrating their presence may be. This can hamper regulators throughout Region 1, not just Ofcom, in gaining concise and accurate evidence.
Finally, don’t forget, in the UK the clocks go forward 1 hour at 1am on the 29th of March, next Sunday. This means we will be on British Summer Time.
And now for the details of rallies and events for the coming week
Due to concerns raised over the Covoid-19 virus, many events in the forthcoming weeks are being cancelled or postponed. We will, of course, keep you posted as we learn of any updates during this rapidly-changing situation, and we will keep the Rallies page on the RSGB website as up to date as we can. Please check carefully before travelling to any event. So far we have heard that the following rallies have definitely been cancelled or postponed.
March and April events that are cancelled include the Callington Radio Rally, the Yeovil QRP Convention, the MFARS Surplus Sale and Radio Meet and the Andover Radio Club Spring Boot Sale.
March and April events that have been postponed are the CW Boot Camp at Stirling, the 23rd annual GMDX Convention, the Dover ARC Hamzilla Radio Fest and Electronics Fair and the Kempton Rally.
Rearranged dates can be found on the RSGB website, at least for those that we get told about. Please send updates of your rally and event plans as soon as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now the DX news
Due to travel restrictions around the world-changing daily, we have decided not to include any DXpedition and similar news until the situation changes.
Now the special event news
Covid–19 is affecting special event stations too. GB1SCW was due to take place on the 7th of June from the National Coastwatch Institution facilities at Shoreham. However, the NCI has closed their watch stations until further notice. When there is more information, any updates will be shown closer to the event on QRZ.com.
Now the contest news
Running for 48 hours until 0200UTC on the 23rd, the BARTG HF RTTY contest takes place using the 3.5 to 28MHz contest bands. The exchange is signal report, serial number and time.
Running for 24 hours until 1200UTC today, the 22nd, the Russian DX Contest uses CW and SSB on the 1.8 to 28MHz contest bands. The exchange is signal report and serial number, with Russian stations also sending their Oblast code.
On Tuesday the SHF UK Activity Contest runs from 1930 to 2230UTC. Using all modes on the 2.3 to 10GHz bands, the exchange is signal report, serial number and locator.
Also on Tuesday, the IRTS 80m Evening Counties contest runs from 2000 to 2100UTC. Using CW and SSB, the exchange is signal report, serial number and County code.
On Wednesday the UK and Ireland Contest Club 80m contest runs from 2000 to 2100UTC. Using CW only, the exchange is your four-character locator.
Next weekend the CQ World Wide SSB contest runs from 0000UTC on the 28th to 2359UTC on the 29th. It’s SSB only on the 1.8 to 28MHz contest bands, with the exchange of signal report and serial number.
Now the radio propagation report, compiled by G0KYA, G3YLA and G4BAO on Friday the 20th of March.
Last week saw a continuation of the zero sunspot regime we’ve been seeing for the past few months. The solar flux index remained in the range 70-72, with settled geomagnetic conditions and with the Kp index remaining in the range of one to two. Thursday the 19th was the exception when the Kp index rose to four between midnight and 0300. This was undoubtedly due to a high-speed stream from a returning solar coronal hole, but it was relatively short-lived. The critical frequency graphs at Propquest.co.uk show that this had minimal adverse effects.
This weekend marks the spring equinox, which is normally a good time for HF conditions. With equal illumination on both hemispheres, it is a good time for north-south paths such as the UK to South Africa, and the UK to South America. Predtest.uk shows that you probably have a 30-40% chance of making an FT8 contact with South Africa on 14MHz, perhaps even 18MHz, around 1600UTC this month. The path to Buenos Aires on 14MHz is similar, being optimum around 1900- 2000UTC.
Next week NOAA predicts more of the same, with the solar flux index remaining around 70. Geomagnetic conditions should remain settled, other than on Friday the 27th when the Kp index is predicted to rise to four.
And now the VHF and up propagation news.
The coming week appears to be dominated by high pressure, so this will bring a chance of Tropo to many parts of the country, although it's not a very favourable-looking feature in a Tropo sense. There are three phases to this period. First, this weekend we are in the easterly flow, probably fairly dry air so not necessarily a good Tropo spell, especially with the brisk southeasterly winds.
Secondly, into next week a cold front moves into northwest Britain and drifts southeast, disrupting the high pressure and any potential Tropo.
The third phase, from midweek, sees the cold front weaken and high-pressure build again as a weak ridge across the country, which remains into next weekend. This may be a better prospect for Tropo, but still not a strong steer.
As for the other exotic modes, Sporadic-E seems a relatively low probability and rain scatter in high pressure also tends to be rare. That just leaves the spring preference for aurora to keep us hopeful.
We have a daytime Moon all week, with declination going positive again on Tuesday. Peak Moon elevations will continue to increase, but with apogee also on Tuesday, path losses are at their highest for the Lunar Month. 144MHz sky noise is low all week.
With no major meteor showers due until the Lyrids at the end of April now, just keep looking for random meteor scatter QSOs around dawn.
And that’s all from the propagation team this week.