Standard Time Stations as Radio Propagation Meters
Standard time stations
, besides providing time synchronization
information, aid radio hobbyist
s with a primitive gauge
of radio propagation
. Although ham radio
and shortwave listening magazines
and books (such as QST
) provide general propagation information, many times these sketch
es are out of date before hitting the stands
. With a good ear and a steady hand, radio hobbyists can take the pulse
" to different parts of the world and local frequencies
. It's truly nifty
to turn on my set at dusk
and hear the various time stations roll in, announcing which program
s I'll greet in the coming hours before I start my day.
I rely on time stations CHU
for the bulk of my propagation information given my North American
location. Given that CHU broadcasts from Ottawa
, CHU's relative signal strength, as compared to its proximity, indicates little more than "first hop" short range propagation. CHU's location on isolated frequencies not shared with other time stations hinders its ability to contrast signal strength with other uniform signals.
More often, time stations are purposefully aligned on the same frequencies to create the cascading propagation effect designed to aid the listener in locating stations. The WWV, WWVH, and YVTO
, when aligned well, exhibit fairly accurate propagational information to both the west and south of my location. Frequently WWVH
pops up under WWV
, during which WWVH
's female voice announces the coming time a few seconds before WWV's male voice. WWVH's relative strength against WWV indicates the propagation activity towards the west and southwest.
When combined with YVTO on 5000 kHz, the three stations' signal strenghts indicate western and southern directions.
I offer this example as the time signal propagation patterns most commonly experienced at my end of the wire
, yet the technique can be applied to other time station configurations. Be mindful that the majority of time stations operate only during peak local times, or with power significantly less than WWV. Reduced operating hours are useful insofar as comparison of these less frequent signals suggests the best times to receive domestic shortwave broadcasts. I agree with Wiccanpiper
that the decline of time stations (or reduction to longwave
service only) detracts from time stations' myriad usages. Given that shortwave
communications have declined to mostly hobbyist use over the past decade, I expect futher reductions in radio's jack-of-all-trades