Another Propagation Aid — Real-Time APRS Map for 2 Meters

2:45pm Thur.

Here’s a link a lot of VHF’ers keep an eye on:
http://aprs.mountainlake.k12.mn.us/

Experienced VHF’ers will debate the usefulness of the APRS map.  It does sometimes show false openings, based on factors I don’t fully understand.  The APRS/mountainlake map also should *NOT* be used to tell you whether it’s worth getting on the air or not.  I see all kinds of nights where the map looks very dead, yet 2m SSB contacts are being made out to 200, 300, 400 miles.
* *There is no substitute for getting on the air and calling CQ yourself.**  If 20 guys are all “just listening” on 144.200 and nobody makes a call, guess how many signals are on the air — yep — ZERO.  Call CQ into an empty band.  Not for huge long stretches of time.  Don’t take over the airwaves or hog the 144.200 call frequency.  But do call a few short CQ’s in different directions.  Those guys out in the sticks really appreciate it when you turn their way.

You don’t need enhanced propagation to have fun on the bands.  But it’s great to know when there is enhancement because those are exciting times.  When the APRS map link above starts turning yellow and especially orange, see if is confirmed by the beacons you listen to.  You want to take advantage of band enhancement.  It’s fun to tell your local club or your ham buddies you worked a guy in Oklahoma, 700 miles away,  on 144.200MHz the other night.

Just like with beacons (in the post below this one, dated Nov. 10, 2016 at kc9bqa.com) it’s a good idea to study the APRS map at various times of the day, and during different weather patterns.  You learn things over time that way.  For complete beginners, there is often better propagation in the early to mid-morning, and again, toward sunset and into the overnight hours.  This subtle rise in propagation is most often noted on bands like 144, 222, 432 MHz and higher.  It is most likely to happen during periods of warm, humid, stagnant weather.  But it’s not limited to that.  There was a great weekend-long opening back in January of either 2010 or 2011.  Had 3 days of icy fog and boy were the bands open to the East Coast.   I know a guy in Milwaukee who has about 10 elements and 100 watts on 144 and this was the first time he’d been on for a true band opening.  Boy was he excited to work NJ and NY.

Propagation is a fascinating topic.  I’m not a heavily technical guy.  Suggest you Google around if you really want to learn various aspects of propagation.

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