The Death of DX HF Radio
Posted by g7fek on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 12:08:03 +0100

Are we seeing the end of the solar maximum for good?

Today`s sunspot number is pretty low at just 14. This cycle has not peaked at predicted levels and it looks like we are already seeing the low counts of a solar minimum.

Myself and some of my solar astronomy colleagues were speculating in 2005 after the first decline in overall solar maximum activity for over 30 years, that then we may be seeing the start of a decline in general activity, possibly eventually leading into a new period similar to the Dalton or Maunder Minimum.  Another possibility was that it would be just a blip, but analysis shows a longer cyclic period of about 100 to 130 years between fairly deep minimum periods, at least based on the data that we have available, that would mean we are overdue.

In 2008 and 2009 it became obvious that the situation was more unusual than we first thought, with record breaking spotless days, and raised again the possibility of a sudden decline or maybe even the loss of the forthcoming maximum altogether. 

The next solar maximum did occur, but solar activity has followed below or at the lower end of estimates and has been quite volatile.

Today, with the sunspot number at just 14 and a fairly blank sun, it looks like the cycle is well and truly on the decline. There is speculation of a double peak (like 2001 and 2003), which is highly possible, but overall we are into the decline phase and F-layer radio propagation is likely to become poor for a long time after this cycle ends.

So make the most of it over the next year or two and if we do enter the next little ice age, be ready to go back to VHF and even embrace Echolink, because another long period of spotless days, could kill off HF DX for good. I mean, even if the next cycle does peak high (doubtful), will you still be doing HF radio in 2023? :)

Comment by 'Clive' on 8 Jun 2018 - comment
“Will sun spot numbers stay lower than normal, well it's looking that way in the middle of 2018. But amateur radio still appears to be hanging in there even if it is more digital than analog modes. As for the Internet, yes it's take up is extreamly high, but that is not much different from what happend with telephones as they deregulated got cheaper and mobile phones augmented land lines. That is the market expanded greatly and even the "old market" remained. Although licensed, I don't operate as such I experiment and like it or not computers and amature radio have been married long enough to have started quite a family of modes some with grand children. So yes the hobby is changing and some such as DX contesters feel the pain of low sun spots others see it as a challenge to get the best of the best out of what we are given. Speaking of which it does not help with the ARRL trying to turn all HF bands into Packtor Internet Access Points, for day boat sailors doing things on the cheap. But with luck the lack of sun spots will kill that idea.”

Comment by 'Mike G7FEK' on 15 Aug 2014 - comment
“Hi Abdel, the point if my article is to present the idea that: if there is no propagation, HF ham radio will be in decline. It is not a matter of people taking up the hobby, just that the signals may not go very far on the DX bands if F-layer ionisation is absent. This is a real possibility for the future.”

Comment by 'Abdel' on 29 May 2014 - comment
“Ham wl not die, failed my advance exam 3 time, and didnt give in until I passed. I am planning to learn morse keep up the good job, fantastic site Abdel M0NPT”

Comment by 'Abdel' on 29 May 2014 - comment
“Ham wl not die, failed my advance exam 3 time, and didnt give in until I passed. I am planning to learn morse keep up the good job, fantastic site Abdel M0NPT”

Comment by 'Mark Edwards' on 12 Feb 2014 - comment
“Recent extreme weather events are consistent with symptoms of a Dalton Minimum because a Dalton causes spikes during a long low period. Maunder causes no such spikes and thus no simple indications until years later when we can look back. We might be in the beginning of a Maunder but we won't know in our lifetime. These are comments made by a solar physicist speaking before our club this year. I won't know whether to believe him until I look back years from now. ”

Comment by 'Erich' on 4 Feb 2014 - comment
“I dont think that HAM will decline. If I see how many new (and young) OM's learning CW. At all places (Switzerland/Turkey/Thailand) there are very active groups and the have all beginners.”

Comment by 'Mike, G7FEK' on 22 Jun 2013 - comment
“Hi Mark, Not sure is is that bad as I dont think internet can really replace radio, as the thrill of RF point to point contact *IS* the hobby, but it is a good idea to enjoy it while we can.”

Comment by 'Mark' on 13 Jun 2013 - comment
“Good article. To be honest, Ham radio is in decline anyway. I doubt there wuld be anyone using it in 2023. Internet has taken over it.”