Ham radio is enjoyed by so many folks as a hobby and is often times used as a saving grace in times of natural disaster that reliability really becomes important. Obviously reliability is important when the Ham Radio is being activated for public service, but it is also relevant to the hobbyist as well. It can be really frustrating for the Ham that suffers continuously from signal loss.  Knowing what can affect the signal can really help in avoiding some of the pitfalls of Ham operation.

Things You Can’t Control

Certain atmospheric disturbances will cause signal loss and fade. Everyone immediately thinks of stormy weather, but it is not quite that simple. Of course stormy weather will play a roll. Lighting can definitely affect the signal, but so will sun spots. Sun spots or sun flares also will either have the effect to increase or decrease the signal. For example if there are sun flares directly over your geographical area than you are more likely to pick up a longer range signal, when they move on to the other hemisphere away from you than you signal for long range capacity will drop.

Barometric pressure will also affect the signal. In high pressure areas the signal that normally travels through the troposphere -where earths weather occurs, when there is high pressure the signals are pushed down so that the normal waves that are lost into the upper atmosphere become compressed with the radio waves and cause interference. There are websites that are dedicated to troposphere bending forecasts that predict the patterns of the radio waves used to send ham signals.

Things You Can Control

Antenna placement is the number one thing that is within the Ham’s realm of control. Antenna placement will either make or break the signal reception and transmission. The answer to controlling this situation is simply trial and error. There are predictors that you can pull up online and input your geographical location by longitude and latitude that will give some pretty specific location advice, but keep in mind most of this software doesn’t know how many trees, structures and other obstructions that might be in the way. Even with this professional guidance trial and error will still be important.

Over time the Ham will learn where the best signal is popping through and get the antenna placement right on, but what was best yesterday may not be best today. The answer is being flexible in placement. Some other things that are in the Ham’s control include equipment, other potential sources of interference like other radios, televisions and cell phones. Although the Ham is forbidden from interfering with any of those signals often times the Ham’s signal is encroached upon by those items. The best advice for taming frustration from signal loss and fade is to have patience; this is after all supposed to be fun!

Source by Stanley Braverman