Shortwave retains a role in serving particularly difficult-to-reach audiences
Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine and its simultaneous blocking of Western media outlets has renewed public interest in shortwave radio broadcasters like the federally funded Voice of America.
Now managed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media or USAGM, VOA’s roots go back to 1941, when the U.S. government leased a dozen commercial broadcaster owned/operated shortwave radio transmitters for the VOA’s predecessor, the U.S. Foreign Information Service. (These shortwave transmitters were previously used by U.S. broadcasters to share content between their AM radio stations.)
The VOA came into being in 1942. It played a major role in broadcasting U.S. news and views to the world during World War Two and the Cold War. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, shifting government priorities, the emergence of platforms competing with shortwave, and budget cuts led to VOA’s language services, broadcasts and programming being reduced.
Today, “USAGM operates transmitting stations around the world, including in the U.S., Africa, Europe and Asia,” Laurie Moy, USAGM’s director of public affairs said in an email earlier this year.
“All of these stations are equipped with multiple shortwave transmitters, and four of these stations have a medium-wave (AM) transmitter each. In total, USAGM’s network consists of about 75 shortwave (ranging from 100 to 250 kW) and medium-wave (ranging from 100 to 1000 kW) transmitters.”
The agency also has access to shortwave and medium-wave transmitters via leases and exchange agreements with other broadcasters.
At present, USAGM produces content in 63 languages, 35 of which are aired on shortwave and medium-wave. VOA itself produces content in 48 languages, 18 of which are aired on shortwave and medium-wave.
“In terms of the agency’s shortwave network, shortwave continues to reach particularly difficult-to-reach audiences, such as in North Korea, western China, Afghanistan and elsewhere,” Moy told Radio World. [Continue reading…]
If a tornado or flash flood is imminent, most Americans find out about it through a smartphone or a television.
But as the National Weather Service was reminded in the wake of the deadly Dec. 10, 2021 Kentucky tornado, one segment of the population uses neither of those things: the Amish, who shun technology.
As meteorologists studied damage in the days that followed that storm, which killed 80 people and damaged hundreds of homes, they encountered an Amish community in Ohio County, Kentucky, and asked: How do you get severe weather information?
“They basically said they listen for the weather sirens from town,” said Derrick Snyder, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. But as loud as storm sirens are, not everyone is close enough to hear.
A solution may be on the way, as the agency teams with a national radio maker as part of the Weather Awareness for a Rural Nation initiative. Snyder and other meteorologists are part of a project developing weather radios that will be both effective in relaying information immediately, but also acceptable for the Amish lifestyle.
It will be a stripped-down, hand-crank model with absolutely no modern amenities. Continue reading →
Hackers can disrupt legit warnings or issue fake ones of their own.
The US Department of Homeland Security is warning of vulnerabilities in the nation’s emergency broadcast network that makes it possible for hackers to issue bogus warnings over radio and TV stations.
“We recently became aware of certain vulnerabilities in EAS encoder/decoder devices that, if not updated to the most recent software versions, could allow an actor to issue EAS alerts over the host infrastructure (TV, radio, cable network),” the DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned. “This exploit was successfully demonstrated by Ken Pyle, a security researcher at CYBIR.com, and may be presented as a proof of concept at the upcoming DEFCON 2022 conference in Las Vegas, August 11-14.”
Pyle told reporters at CNN and Bleeping Computer that the vulnerabilities reside in the Monroe Electronics R189 One-Net DASDEC EAS, an emergency alert system encoder and decoder. TV and radio stations use the equipment to transmit emergency alerts. The researcher told Bleeping Computer that “multiple vulnerabilities and issues (confirmed by other researchers) haven’t been patched for several years and snowballed into a huge flaw.”
“When asked what can be done after successful exploitation, Pyle said: ‘I can easily obtain access to the credentials, certs, devices, exploit the web server, send fake alerts via crafts message, have them valid / pre-empting signals at will. I can also lock legitimate users out when I do, neutralizing or disabling a response,’” Bleeping Computer added. [Continue reading…]
Amateur radio operators have played a longstanding game of “Will It Antenna?” If there’s something even marginally conductive and remotely resonant, a ham has probably tried to make an antenna out of it. Some of these expedient antennas actually turn out to be surprisingly effective, but as we can see from this in-depth analysis of the characteristics of tape measure antennas, a lot of that is probably down to luck.
At first glance, tape measure antennas seem to have a lot going for them (just for clarification, most tape measure antennas use only the spring steel blade of a tape measure, not the case or retraction mechanism — although we have seen that done.) Tape measures can be rolled up or folded down for storage, and they’ll spring back out when released to form a stiff, mostly self-supporting structure.
But [fvfilippetti] suspected that tape measures might have some electrical drawbacks, thanks to the skin effect. That’s the tendency for current to flow on the outside of a conductor, which at lower frequencies on conductors with a round cross-section turns out to be not a huge problem. [Continue reading on Hackaday…]
A Broadstairs eight-year-old has chatted with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station and a recording of the conversation will feature on the NASA website.
Isabella Payne spoke to Astronaut Kjell Lindgren as the ISS flew overhead last week.
The youngster was with dad Matthew who is a license holding amateur radio enthusiast and tutor. He and Isabella are both members of Hilderstone Radio Society.
Matthew said: “Isabella has been a member of the radio club ever since she was born and has been playing with the radio since she was six. Because I have the full licence she can sit on my knee and use the radio to speak to people as long as I am controlling it. Everyone at the club can do that. She has been involved in a few radio events, Children On The Air events, and will hopefully go for her own licence soon. [Click here to read the full article and view the photos.]
“I plan my life by the radio these days, my contact with the outside world in a sense…”
The first ever international prison radio conference has just been held in Norway, bringing together representatives of prison radio shows from 19 countries, including Australia, where Indigenous people continue to be grossly over-represented in prison populations.
Prison radio shows, wherever they are in the world, all work to give voice to the voiceless and empower people by enabling them to tell their own stories.
In March, a group of massive tornadoes struck communities around Des Moines, Iowa. Seven people were killed, including two children under 5. The crisis received attention not only due to its human cost, but also because of delays in emergency wireless communications: Thanks to a broken fiber optic cable at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Weather Service offices, wireless emergency transmissions were switched to an auxiliary satellite system, which all NWS offices use. Overloaded with extreme weather messages from elsewhere in the Midwest, the satellite messaging system found itself backed up just as the Iowa tornadoes reached their peak. This caused anywhere from a two- to nine-minute delay in tornado warning messages—and may have significantly reduced warning time at a moment when seconds count. The issue lasted for several hours as the deadly tornadoes ripped through the state.
NOAA Weather Radio, on the other hand, continued broadcasting effectively during the crisis. According to Bruce Jones, a weather radio expert and meteorologist with Midland Radio Corporation, “because the NWR broadcast comes direct from the National Weather Service local forecast office, those NOAA Weather Radio alerts and warnings were unimpeded and reached folks immediately.”
Often referred to as the “voice” of the National Weather Service, NOAA Weather Radio is a 24/7 public service that broadcasts weather information from more than 1,000 stations across the United States and many of its territories. And while Des Moines was a great success story for NOAA Weather Radio, the service faces mounting issues with aging technology and infrastructure, raising concerns over whether it will be able to continue protecting communities facing extreme weather.
[…]While NOAA Weather Radio has historically been an important, consistent, and life-saving means of emergency communication, it may not be for long. Outdated technology and failed attempts at modernization are threatening the NOAA Weather Radio system and resulting in extended outages for locations at risk. And as the climate crisis intensifies, this important technology is often vulnerable to the weather about which it’s meant to inform.
Interviews with NWS employees about outages reveal many local technical problems that take out communications, sometimes for weeks or months.
[…]Recent congressional action, however, has given new life to the possibility of systemic weather radio modernization. Rep. Stephanie Bice, a Republican from Oklahoma, has proposed the NOAA Weather Radio Modernization Act of 2021, which passed in the House of Representatives in May but has yet to pass in the Senate. From Oklahoma, Bice was well aware of the need for consistent weather communications during natural disasters like tornadoes, which affect her constituents.
The bill would authorize $20 million to expand coverage to the remaining 5 percent of the country without access to NOAA Weather Radio communications, as well as $40 million to modernize its hardware and software, including upgrading communication from copper wires to Internet services. According to Wesley Harkins, a representative from Bice’s office, “this paves the way for future development and provides failsafe options, so NWR is never down for an extended period of time.”
[…]The NWS itself acknowledges the benefits of this legislation. Maureen O’Leary, deputy director of public affairs at the NOAA, told me via email that improvements would include “expanding NWR coverage to rural and underserved communities, national parks, and recreation areas.”[…]
Why? Because the courage, dedication and performance of the “Coasties” is just extraordinary. They dangle from hoist cables to pluck survivors from the water, injured sailors from the decks of ships, mariners from sinking vessels, and even incapacitated hikers from mountains. They medevac sick and injured men, women, and children out of remote Alaskan villages; provide medical support while flying them to higher levels of care, and intercept drug smugglers in southern waters. I stand in awe of these men and women. (And – woe is me – it turns out there are similar series for Coast Guard Pacific Northwest and Coast Guard Florida.)
So, I wondered, could I hear the US Coast Guard on the radio? The answer, it turns out is a mixed bag.
The U.S. Coast Guard ceased monitoring all High Frequency (HF) shortwave voice distress frequencies within the contiguous United States and Hawaii on 7 February 2022. HF voice distress watchkeeping continues unaffected in Alaska and Guam. See below for the Alaska and Guam USB frequencies.
kHz SHIP STATION
kHz COAST STATION
Station and Schedule (UTC) NOJ (Kodiak AK)
kHz SHIP STATION
kHz COAST STATION
Station and Schedule (UTC) Guam
Note: 12290 kHz is available under NOJ upon request Note: 16420 kHz is available at NOJ and Guam upon request
So, if you have a good radio capable of upper sideband (USB) reception, a decent antenna and your location and/or propagation favors you, you might have a shot at hearing USCG Alaska or Guam HF communications.
National Weather Service Marine Products via U.S. Coast Guard HF Voice
You have a much better chance of hearing the U.S. Coast Guard broadcasting National Weather Service high seas forecasts and storm warnings from six high seas communication stations. See table below for station locations and schedules. Transmission range depends on operating frequency, time of day and atmospheric conditions and can vary from only short distances to several thousand miles.
For example, I have heard a weather forecast from the US Coast Guard Communications Command in Chesapeake, including a forecast of tropical weather from the National Hurricane Center, on 4426 USB at my home in upstate New York.
Here are the schedules:
Chesapeake (NMN) HF Voice Broadcast Schedule
4426, 6501, 8764 kHz (USB)
6501, 8764, 13089 kHz (USB)
8764, 13089, 17314 kHz (USB)
1 Offshore Forecasts, hurricane information
2 High seas Forecast, hurricane information
Broadcast of hurricane and other weather broadcasts from this station may on occasion be preempted, as the frequencies are shared with other USCG stations.
New Orleans (NMG) HF Voice Broadcast Schedule
4316, 8502, 12788 kHz (USB)
1 Offshore Forecasts, hurricane information
2 Highseas Forecast, hurricane information
Broadcast of hurricane and other weather broadcasts from this station may on occasion be preempted, as the transmitters are shared with the radiofax broadcast.
Pt. Reyes (NMC) HF Voice Broadcast Schedule
4426, 8764, 13089 kHz (USB)
8764, 13089, 17314 kHz (USB)
Broadcast of hurricane and other weather broadcasts from this station may on occasion be preempted, as the frequencies are shared with other USCG stations, and the transmitters are shared with the radiofax broadcast.
Kodiak (NOJ) HF Voice Broadcast Schedule
6501 kHz (USB)
Honolulu (NMO) HF Voice Broadcast Schedule
6501, 8764 kHz (USB)
8764, 13089 kHz (USB)
Guam (NRV) HF Voice Broadcast Schedule
6501 kHz (USB)
13089 kHz (USB)
Coastal Maritime Safety Broadcasts on VHF
The other place in the radio spectrum where you might hear voice transmissions from the Coast Guard would be on the maritime VHF channels. Urgent marine navigational and weather information is broadcast over VHF channel 22A (157.1 MHz) from over 200 sites covering the coastal areas of the U.S., including the Great Lakes, major inland waterways, Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. Broadcasts are first announced over the distress, safety and calling channel 16 (156.8 MHz) before they are made. All ships in U.S. waters over 20m in length are required to monitor VHF channel 16, and must have radios capable of tuning to the VHF simplex channel 22A.
Although VHF signals are generally short range, here at El Rancho Elliott, I can clearly hear the announcement on channel 16 on a scanner and then I can switch to channel 22A to hear the broadcast, even though my location is at least 140 miles from the nearest large body of water. In addition, propagation sometimes opens up so that VHF signals can be heard at long distances.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:
A bit more about NOAA Weather Radio
By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a fan, an advocate, an evangelist for NOAA Weather Radio (NWR).
Why? Because, quite simply, if you live in the United States, it is one of the very best deals you are ever likely to get. NWR is the voice of the National Weather Service. It is the fastest and most reliable means of receiving alerts when hazardous weather approaches.
NWR includes more than 1000 transmitters, covering some or all of 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Territories. Broadcasts are found in the VHF public service band at these seven frequencies (MHz): 162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500, 162.525, and 162.550. Radios capable of receiving NWR signals may include consumer radios, ham radios, scanners, and dedicated weather radios.
NOAA Weather Radio is free. There are no commercials, you don’t have to wait for other programming to be completed to hear the weather forecast, and, because it is radio, you can listen and get a concise summary of what’s going on with the weather in your area while you are doing something else. Even better, the folks at the National Weather Service tell me that over 80 percent of the NWR transmitters have some form of backup or emergency power, many of which can continue to operate for 5-10 days while the main power is out. There is a wealth of information about NWR here: https://www.weather.gov/phi/nwrfaq scroll down to see details.
Why do you want a receiver that can hear NOAA Weather Radio? Short answer: because every state in the Union has some form of hazardous weather that could prove lethal. Early warning just might save your life.
In his excellent book Warnings – the true story of how science tamed the weather, Mike Smith points out how successful meteorology has been at saving lives. In the 1950s, with the beginning of the tornado warning system, the death rate from tornados was 1.5 deaths per million people. By 2009, the death rate was down to .068 deaths per million, a decrease or more than 95 percent. The investment weather radar, prediction techniques, and warning systems such as NWR has paid handsome dividends.
So what makes an NWR-capable radio good? First, sensitivity. Greater sensitivity increases the odds that the radio will be able to hear more NWR stations in your local area, which in turn raises the probability that you’ll be able to hear an NWR station with backup power when the lights go out.
Second, alert capability. An alert function – that is, the ability to put the radio in standby mode and have it automatically switch on when NWR transmits an alert tone is a great plus. You can go about your business, and the radio will wake up and alert you when you need to pay attention.
Third, advanced alert capability. Ideally, you would like to be alerted only when a hazard is close to your immediate vicinity. Some dedicated weather radios and advanced scanners offer Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) that can be programmed by the user to only alarm for weather and other emergency events in specific, desired counties, thereby eliminating unwanted alerts for areas that are not of concern to the listener. In addition, some weather radios have a selectable alert option that can be programmed to alert only when certain hazard codes – ranging from Avalanche to Winter Storm Warning – have been selected by the user and are transmitted by the local NWR station.
With that in mind, here are some NWR-capable radios with which I have had personal experience. With each radio, I did a quick search from the same location to see how many local NWR stations it would receive, as a rough indication of sensitivity. The good news is that every single one of the radios below could receive at least two NWR stations in my local area and had basic alert capabilities.
Consumer radios with AM/FM receive
CC Skywave SSB
CCrane 2E –could hear clearly 3 NWR stations in my area, basic alert function, house mains and battery power (over 200 hours).
CCrane Skywave SSB – could hear 2 NWR stations clearly and one scratchy, basic alert function, battery power (over 50 hours).
Eton FRX3+ — could hear NWR 3 stations clearly, basic alert capability, power options include solar, hand-crank dynamo, and rechargeable battery (can also be recharged off house power with USB capable), internal battery can be used to recharge cell phone battery.
Ham radio hand-talkies
Icom V80 with aftermarket high-performance antenna – could hear 2 NWR stations clearly and one scratchy, basic alert capability.
Yaesu VX-6 with Diamond 77 aftermarket antenna — could hear 2 NWR stations clearly and one scratchy, basic alert capability.
Uniden BC125AT with Diamond 77 aftermarket antenna – could hear 3 NWR stations clearly, basic alert function.
Uniden SDS200 with homebrew off-center-fed dipole antenna (see below) – could hear 6 NWR stations clearly, highly sophisticated programmable SAME and specific hazard alert functions, no battery power (the SDS100, handheld version of this scanner provides battery power); would require uninterruptible power supply or something similar if mains power goes off. Author’s note: while the performance is stellar, this is by far the most expensive option. With the stock antenna that comes with the SDS200, I could hear two NWR stations clearly.
Dedicated NOAA Weather Radio Receiver
Midland WR120 Weather Alert Radio – At the time I began this write-up, I did not own a dedicated weather radio receiver, so I reached out to www.midlandusa.com, and they were kind enough to send me this unit, which is built solely to receive National Weather Radio stations. With the built-in whip antenna extended, the receiver was clearly very sensitive. I could hear 4 of my local NWR stations clearly, and 2 more scratchy but copyable. If you are in a fringe area, there is a socket for plugging in an external antenna such as the one I describe below.
There is a little symbol on the box that says “EZ Progamming,” and I was pleasantly surprised that it was true. Between the MENU and SELECT keys, it is easy to walk through the setup. I thought that I would have to look up the SAME code for my location, but the WR120 has a built-in database of all the states and counties, so selecting my county was a snap. In addition to SAME programming, the WR120 has a long list of selectable alert options that you can choose to meet your needs. That list can be downloaded here: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0531/2856/0817/files/SAME_List_of_Emergencies_Non-Weather_Emergencies.pdf?v=1636648846
The WR120 is powered by a tiny wall-wart transformer that plugs into house power, and the user installs 3 AA batteries to provide back-up power in case the lights go out. The manual does not say how long it will operate on battery power.
It seems to me that if you do not already own a device that will receive NOAA Weather Radio stations, the WR120 would be an excellent choice.
I built the wire version, hung it inside in a corner of my radio shack, and with it attached to either Uniden scanner or my Icom V80 ham handi-talkie, I can hear six NWR stations from my location. This antenna offers a large boost in performance for a modest investment of time and money.
What made this morning unusual were the things I couldn’t see: the digital clock across the room, the tiny LED lamp that illuminates the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. They were both dark. In fact, the only light that I could see was the LED from the uninterruptable power supply for the computer in the next room. It was pulsing, indicating the power from the mains was out.
With the help of a flashlight kept within easy reach of the bed, I made my way downstairs. A peek out the windows revealed the surrounding area was dark; no lights in local houses, no street lights. A house across the ravine behind my house had a single light, but it had the bright white look of an emergency lantern. So this outage was wider spread than just the lane where I live. But how widespread was it? In early February in upstate New York, it’s winter; temperature about 6 degrees Fahrenheit on this particular morning. The thermostat on the wall has already dropped below where the furnace should have kicked on. With no electricity; no furnace.
With no house power, I had no internet, so I couldn’t look things up to find out why there was no house power. Because we use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), with no internet, no house phone.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Well, dummy, fire up your smart phone, and in a few moments you’ll have your answers.”
To that I say: “Not so fast there, pardner.”
I consulted with a ham radio friend who makes his living in the commercial radio business. He consults with many companies, including cell phone companies, so he knows what he is talking about.
It turns out there are three things that could render your smart phone useless.
The first is whether your local cell tower(s) have battery back-up. Most do, but how many hours the batteries will run the cell tower can vary widely from just a couple of hours to perhaps eight. Depending upon when the power went out, you may or may not be able to connect.
The second is that many cell phone towers themselves connect to the rest of the network through wire or fiber optic cable. If a vehicle has taken down a pole, or a falling tree has taken down a cable, the network may be disrupted.
Finally, if there is high demand for your local cell phone tower, you may not be able to make a connection. My commercial radio “guru” relates that he went to an event at a local community college. There is a cell tower right on the property, but he had great difficulty connecting simply because so many people were trying to use the tower.
During emergencies, cell phone networks frequently go into gridlock because of high demand, so it’s a good idea to have other means of gathering information. An interesting aside: some years ago, I heard a presentation from one of the hospital administrators who was in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. They were unable to make voice phone calls, but apparently they could sometimes send and receive text messages.
Getting back to my small lights-out incident, I was in the actual act of firing up a radio to check out what local broadcasters on the AM (medium wave) band had to say, when the lights came on, the furnace started, and internet and phone service were restored. My greatest inconvenience was having to reset a couple of digital clocks.
But it raised a serious question:what should be your essential listening post if the lights go out, the fertilizer hits the ventilation equipment?
First and foremost, a battery-powered radio capable of receiving your local broadcasters. You need to know – or find out – which ones have back-up power so they can keep transmitting. Knowing that will do two things for you: first, tuning in to a station with back-up power will hopefully get you the information you need, and second, if stations that don’t have back-up power are off the air, that will give you an indication of how widespread the power outage is.
Knowing the extent of the blackout can be important. A couple of decades ago, on an August afternoon, my better half and I took our young son to a local park where there was a water fountain that the kids could run through. When we got home later, the power was out. I saw the neighbor standing in her yard and asked if she had reported the outage. “No point,” she said. “Why?” I asked. “Because the lights are out from Canada to Virginia.” Oh.
In addition to knowing which stations are likely to be on the air, it’s also good to know which local stations have news staff that are likely to collect and broadcast information that is needed during an emergency.
Second, if you live in the United States or Canada, you need a weather radio. Every state in the Union has bad weather of one sort or another . . . and some of them can kill you. NOAA weather radio is an excellent source of information. It’s free, and it does a fine job of delivering weather-related info in a concise and useful format.
Third, it would be very useful to have a scanner or ham radio capable of receiving your local 2 meter repeaters. This could be an additional source of useful information in a crisis.
So, are there any radios that I would recommend for “The Essential Listening Post” when the lights go out?
Yes, there are.
The C.Crane CCRadio 2E
First on my list would be the C.Crane CCRadio 2E (or CCRadio3). It receives AM, FM, NOAA Weather Band with Weather Alert and the 2-Meter Ham Band. It will run on house power or, if the lights are out, over 200 hours on batteries. By all accounts, it offers excellent performance on AM and FM, and it is one of the most sensitive NOAA weather radio receivers I have tested. I bought one and can heartily recommend it.
CC Skywave SSB
The CCrane Skywave SSB receives AM, FM, NOAA Weather band plus Alert, Shortwave (1711-29.999MHz) with SSB, VHF Aviation Band. It doesn’t receive the 2 meter ham band, but it will receive hams on HF frequencies, which might come in handy in an emergency. It is not quite as sensitive as the CCrane 2E on NOAA weather frequencies, but, as I reported last year it was the most sensitive NOAA weather radio receiver I took to Sodus, NY. It is very small and portable and will run for over 50 hours on batteries. I bought one and can heartily recommend it.
The Eton FRX3+
The Eton FRX3+ is an interesting alternative for a “when the lights go out” radio. This battery-powered radio receives AM, FM, and NOAA weather radio with alert. It has a couple of LED lights for navigating in the dark and can be charged by a built-in solar panel, hand-crank, or USB cable, and can even be used to charge your cell phone. Eton Corp. sent me one of these, and I find that it offers worthy performance on AM and FM, and excellent sensitivity on NOAA weather radio. Recommended.
In the future, I hope to offer some additional useful information about NOAA weather radio as well as a comparison of different ways to receive NOAA weather radio, including dedicated weather radio, consumer radio, scanner, and ham handi-talkie.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:
Perhaps the ultimate radio nerd story . . .
by Jock Elliott (KB2GOM)
Perhaps I am the only guy on planet earth with a “kinda” interest in DXing NOAA weather radio, but there you have it, and this led me down an interesting rabbit hole in the world of radio.
Earlier this year, I found myself in Sodus, NY, in the western part of the state, near the shores of Lake Ontario. I had with me the following: an Icom V80 2-meter handy-talkie with a sharply tuned commercial antenna that works great on my home repeater (146.94) in Troy, NY; a Uniden BC125AT scanner with a Diamond 77 antenna, and a CCrane Skywave SSB. All receive the NOAA weather channels.
In the early morning, I checked www.wunderground.com for weather in the Sodus area. Snow was expected overnight. So I grab the Uniden 125AT, activate the weather scan function, and found that it received NOAA weather radio channels 1, 2, and 3, and the audio sounded great through my headphones. I tried stepping through the weather radio channels on my Icom V80 and found that it received channels 1, 2, and 3, but with just a wee bit of static in the background. I tried switching the antennas between the 125AT and the V80, and there was no appreciable difference.
Now, here’s the interesting part: I tried the same trick on the CCrane Skywave SSB with its telescoping whip fully extended, and it received weather channel 1 just fine with excellent audio through the headphones. But channel 2 was way down in the soup, a hair above “barely audible.” I tried waving the Skywave around, point the whip antenna in different directions and orientations to see if I could improve the signal. I succeeded only in nulling it out. Weather radio channel 3 was not audible at all, but channel 4 was coming in well, and so was channel 7 . . . and the other two radios were not receiving channels 4 and 7 at all.
Frankly, I didn’t know what to make of this. To be clear, I was able to hear that forecast that I needed to hear — for Wayne County, NY — on all three radios. But why would there be such a stark difference between the CCrane Skywave SSB and the other two radios?
At this point, I was really curious what the answer might be.
The V80 and the 125AT “agreed” with each; both were receiving NOAA weather radio channels 1, 2, 3. The CCrane Skywave SSB appeared to be the anomaly, receiving channels 1, 2 (barely), and 4 and 7, which the V80 and 125AT did not receive.