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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Where Have All The Signals Gone?

In April 2014, I could tune through the 48m band and listen to stations on a Saturday morning from all over Western Europe. These stations faded down and were replaced with short skip stations, mainly from the UK. In the evening the band would open again and I could hear UK  and NL stations as late as 2230 UTC on many occasions. 

Over the last few weeks I have heard no English stations at all and more recently even the Dutch and Irish stations are virtually non-existent. So what is going on here?

I found some solar data history which gives some clue as to what is happening:

                  Solar Flux Index (SFI)    Sunspot Number (SN)

April 2013           125                             111.8
April 2014           144.3                          130.5
April 2015           129.2                          72.5
April 2016            93.4                           39.2
April 2017            80.9                           30.4
April 2018            69                               0

We appear to be at or near the bottom of the sunspot cycle which is having these limiting effects on the 48m band. Of course, if you live further away you may benefit from long skip and hear some stations. 

So what is the big deal? After all, the sunspot cycle has been affecting communications since we first started using electro-magnetic waves for radio. Also there is nothing we can do about it except wait for the rare days where propagation improves.

Two things are happening though: firstly the age of many operators is over 65 and we have sadly lost many. Secondly, the number of operators is decreasing significantly, due in part to the popularity of short wave being in decline but also because operators like to be listened to. If there is no audience, whether through lack of propagation or lack of interest in SW broadcasts, it matters not. They will not be on the band!

When the band starts to improve - maybe next year, in 2019 or maybe 2020, will there be any operators left ready and willing to transmit on the SW bands? Will there be any listeners left? 


  1. Sad times Terry. Lets hope plenty of stations will still be around when conditions do finally improve. Long gone are the days when a little 10 watt transmitter would do the business across Europe because conditions were so good.

  2. Many thanks for the comment, David. Indeed a 10w tx would cover most of Europe.. good times! Best wishes.

  3. Are the likes of WMR, Armadillo, Subterranean still around, or even the next generation to who to pass on the torch? Sadly, I think the decline is terminal.

    1. Many thanks for your comment. I hope it is not terminal, but I am not over optimistic. Maybe it's what some people call progress.. maybe! 73 Terry

  4. A interesting topic indeed Terry.
    When i first started my own blog in 2009 and for the next few years it was almost impossible to log all the stations that would be on a Sunday morning. The only Station on Sunday most of the time now is Radio King SW.
    I guess the high local noise that we experience on Sw Band has put a lot off young people of giving it a go.
    Hopefully they will be still some stations on still giving it go on SW when conditions improve.


    1. Hi Paul and thanks for your comment. Indeed I remember those mornings before I started my Blog in 2014! The few youngsters that are in the hobby are rare animals indeed. I suspect we have had our time, but I for one aim to keep listening and taking part in the hobby for as long as I am able. 73 Terry

  5. Indeed a very precise description of what is going on, it is the truth that AM Radio (SW & AM) is losing its listeners rapidly. Internet kills the radio star. On top forecasts for the next propagation maximum are also dissappointing. The next maximum is forecasted to be at the minimum of the cycle before. It seems we need to get used to listen via webreceivers in the whole world if you like to follow a programme. So all in all it is a mixture of different things which clearly indicates that the world has changed. At least it is not that risky to run a station anymore. Too late to stop it now anyway. Chris Ise

  6. Hi Terry + all
    propagations going down, like a mauden minium time, but MF band will be better and im sure 74-88m works well too. Here in north over 60 dgr, aurora making it worst but sun and geomgv activity will be down as well. So, I'm sure we have better conditions in a future but some lack 4MHz to 30MHz.
    Let's hope some new pirates on air and Let's hope for good health to OM's who have been active on air

    73 mike

  7. Hi Chris and thanks for the message. Indeed it is to be hoped that those of us still in the hobby remain as good friends! Perhaps we must recognise the fact that our interest in the shortwave is becoming part of history. But maybe not just today!!
    73 Terry

  8. Good discussion. Despite life getting busier and time getting more scarce we plan to keep things going for the forseeable future on SW. All the best to everyone.

  9. Hi Terry,

    three new regular(!) pirate stations have appeared on shortwaves this spring nevertheless: Radio Harmony, Zeppelin Radio, Charleston Radio Int'l. So, I think, it's not a bad thing at all in pirate SW community.

    Alex Ulx2