Do 6m Sporadic E Skip Openings Predict 2m Openings?

    My short answer is no, not usually.   BUT… when 2m does open up with Sporadic E skip (Google it, and learn for yourself)  it’s far more rare than 6m, so you really want to be ready for it and take advantage.   This is timely info because this week, 6m started opening up.  In fact, the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) went as high as 108 MHz, which is pretty darn good for late April.   I know the MUF went that high because guys in NY, PA, CT, NJ and MA who DX the FM broadcast band were reporting Es up to the top of the dial.   
    Of course, for 2m to open up via sporadic Es, we need that MUF to get into the 144-148 MHz range.   It is extremely rare for the MUF to get up to the 220 MHz band, and to my knowledge, it has never happened on 70cm.

    I’d say E skip on 2 meters only happens about 4-10 times a year.  For instance, K7ULS in DN41, near Salt Lake City, UT was in (to my EN63 QTH) for about a half hour last June.    2 meter E skip tends to be short-lived and not as strong as the Es on 6m.   It tends to occur in the late morning until mid/late evening.   My guess is that less than 10% of 6m openings end up going as high as 2m.   I wish we had a network of at least 10-20 guys in every state that monitored (and called CQ!) consistently on 2m SSB, every day and evening.  If we had that, we’d find there’s a lot more Es than we realized.  We’d catch a lot more of the mini-openings that might only last for a few minutes.  

    Here’s a few ways to keep track of whether you might suddenly start making contacts beyond 500 miles on 2m.
    1)  Put the internet to work for you with this link:
http://www.vhfdx.info/spots/map.php?Lan=E&Frec=MUF&ML=M&Map=NA&DXC=N&HF=N&GL=N
When 6m is open, you will see little boxes on that map display frequencies in MHz like 51, 66, 75, etc.   You want those higher numbers to be *between* you and the area you’re working.  You use those “clouds” of higher MUF to bounce or skip your signals off of.  That whole website has a lot of useful features.  Click around and have fun learning about it.   There were several times last summer where that map showed MUF’s above 160 MHz.  Those times coincided with 2m sporadic E skip openings.   (Some guys also DX the NOAA weather radio stations at 162.4-162.55 MHz)
    2)  Another way to keep track of whether 2m might be opening up via sporadic Es is this:   If you notice that 6m E skip is getting very strong to stations only 400-500 miles away, that’s important.  Short skip on 6 means the MUF is climbing, and 2m may open up in the direction of the short skip on 6.   It’s then time to get on or near 144.200 and call CQ.  
    Short CQ’s are best on VHF.  Especially if you’re trying to work E skip, which can literally be in for only a minute or two.  Whenever I hear a guy start up with “CQ, CQ, CQ, CQ.   This is AB9XYZ, AB9XYZ, AB9XYZ.  CQ, CQ, CQ, CQ…”  I smile  because I know someone used to HF is now trying out VHF.  Use shorter CQ’s for VHF, especially if the band is open or busy.

    Another piece of advice — yes, the call frequency is 144.200.  Yes, you should swing your beams around and call CQ anytime you’re near the rig.   Don’t fall into the trap of “just listening”.   If 20 guys listen and nobody calls CQ, what happens then?… (nothing)
    BUT… keep your QSO’s on 144.200 short.  If you want to have a ragchew, QSY up/down 10, 15, 20, whatever.  Main thing is to not tie up the call freq. for long, especially when the band might be open or busy.   I will say that in rural, isolated areas with few 2m SSB ops, there’s some merit to keeping .200 more busy.  Provided you take frequent breaks to invite others to join in or to let them use .200 to make their own calls for DX.  
    If you monitor 2m long enough with decent antennas, you will have special days where contacts are being made well beyond the usual 100-300 mile range.  On those days, you will understand why it’s important to not all clump together on 144.200. 
    New ops, especially those who are used to channelized repeater operating need to use their VFO’s and spread out from 144.200 when it’s busy.   Say you do catch a big E skip opening on 2.   Would you rather have 10 stations all fighting it out on 144.200, or would you rather hear clearer signals scattered from 144.170-144.230?    Let’s put it another way.   If you went to a grocery store and saw 10 people with full carts standing in one line, wouldn’t you slide over to the checkout gal who has nobody in line?  

     So far all I’ve been discussing is Sporadic E skip propagation.   It’s common on 6m in the summer, and not at all common on 2m.   How 2m and higher bands open up is usually via tropospheric ducting.   Or just good old, “tropo”.   This post is long enough, so I’m going to hold off on the tropo post for now.   I’ll also admit that I’m looking for someone to steer me to their favorite explanations of tropo.   I can give the basics, but I know I’ve read better articles than I could ever write.   If anyone has links to good tropo articles, steer me toward them.    

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