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Subelement T3
Radio wave characteristics: properties of radio waves; propagation modes
Section T3A
Radio wave characteristics: how a radio signal travels; fading; multipath; polarization; wavelength vs absorption; antenna orientation
What should you do if another operator reports that your station's 2 meter signals were strong just a moment ago, but now they are weak or distorted?
• Change the batteries in your radio to a different type
• Turn on the CTCSS tone
• Ask the other operator to adjust his squelch control
Try moving a few feet or changing the direction of your antenna if possible, as reflections may be causing multi-path distortion

Multipath distortion is caused by radio waves bouncing off of different objects (mountains, large buildings, etc) and then all arriving at the same location but having traveled a different distance. Because of this they arrive at slightly different times (having traveled at different, or multiple, paths) and can interfere with each other.

When you have a solid signal at first and then move and suddenly don't have a strong signal you probably just moved to a location where the multipath distortion was greater. Move back to where you were when you had a strong signal or just try moving a few feet, closer to a window, etc. It usually isn't too hard to locate the "sweet spot".

Note that multipath and other propagation can be affected by the temperature and weather, so you may find that your signal strength changes throughout the course of a day.

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Why might the range of VHF and UHF signals be greater in the winter?
• Less ionospheric absorption
Less absorption by vegetation
• Less solar activity
• Less tropospheric absorption

The range of VHF/UHF signals could be greater in the winter due to less absorption by vegetation. This is the only option that is clearly correlated with winter and applies to VHF and UHF.

Absorption of RF radiation by solid materials and water tends to increase with frequency, and UHF and VHF don't usually reflect off of any of the ionospheric layers. So they have to travel as line-of-sight surface waves (not skywaves) where the amount of water and solid material in their path can attenuate them. In winter, more surface vegetation has died back so there is less water and other material in the path. Even in Florida?

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What antenna polarization is normally used for long-distance weak-signal CW and SSB contacts using the VHF and UHF bands?
• Right-hand circular
• Left-hand circular
Horizontal
• Vertical

To remember this, just think that long distance implies over the horizon (horizon-tal).

You can send the signals in any polarization you care to, but if you want to make contact with other HAMs in other states or countries trying to contact you, with low power, you should use the same polarization they are using to get the strongest signal.

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What can happen if the antennas at opposite ends of a VHF or UHF line of sight radio link are not using the same polarization?
• The modulation sidebands might become inverted
Signals could be significantly weaker
• Signals have an echo effect on voices
• Nothing significant will happen

You may have played with polarized glasses sometime and found that if you hold two pair in line with each other and then rotate one 90 degrees that they darken or block light from coming through. Some 3-D movies have you wear polarized glasses where one eye is vertically polarized and the other eye is horizontally polarized so that each eye can receive a different image projected from the two projectors.

With radio we can have vertically or horizontally polarized antennas. The receiver must have the same polarization in order to pick up the maximum amount of the signal transmitted. If they are not matched they may only detect a small portion and be significantly weaker than it should be. Note the "line of sight" clarification in the question. Once a signal bounces or reflects off of something it may alter its polarity. If you are having a hard time hearing a transmission move positions and tilt the antenna around to maximize reception.

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When using a directional antenna, how might your station be able to access a distant repeater if buildings or obstructions are blocking the direct line of sight path?
• Change from vertical to horizontal polarization
Try to find a path that reflects signals to the repeater
• Try the long path
• Increase the antenna SWR

The great thing about a directional (or "beam") antenna is the ability to tightly focus your transmission in a particular direction. If you don't have a direct path to the receiving station (a repeater, in the case of this particular question), you can point your antenna at something that will "bounce" the signal for you. It's a little like playing pool (you can't get the shot you want, so you find another object, at the correct angle, that can 'bounce' the shot in the correct direction).

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What term is commonly used to describe the rapid fluttering sound sometimes heard from mobile stations that are moving while transmitting?
• Flip-flopping
Picket fencing
• Frequency shifting
• Pulsing

The term "Picket fencing" refers to the effect of the signal cutting in and out of good signal quality due to movement; the imagery implied is that the transmitting station is driving by a picket fence and the signal only makes it through the gaps between the slats. Thus, when you either are missing parts of the signal (wholly or partially) due to consistent gaps in the signal it is commonly referred to as "Picket Fencing"

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What type of wave carries radio signals between transmitting and receiving stations?
Electromagnetic
• Electrostatic
• Surface acoustic
• Ferromagnetic

Radio waves are also known as Electromagnetic waves because they have both an electric and a magnetic field component to them. It's also important to note that radio waves can be found on the electromagnetic spectrum.

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Which of the following is a likely cause of irregular fading of signals received by ionospheric reflection?
• Frequency shift due to Faraday rotation
• Interference from thunderstorms
Random combining of signals arriving via different paths
• Intermodulation distortion

Fading due to Random combining of signals arriving via different paths is called multipath fading. It is the only option that makes sense in this question.

It is actually possible for reception to be too good. Sometimes when reception is good a signal will arrive at your receiver after reflecting off of different obstacles, such as mountains, buildings, and so on. Each time this happens, it creates a separate "path", and each path is a different distance (or length), resulting in signals that are out of phase with each other.

When these signals all arrive, with some taking longer than others, they can combine in such a way that it can cause the total signal to fade such as when the signal along one path is $180^\circ$ (or close to it) out of phase with another causing the waves to cancel each other out.

When the signals are less out of phase with each other they can also cause a type of distortion called multipath distortion.

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Which of the following results from the fact that skip signals refracted from the ionosphere are elliptically polarized?
• Digital modes are unusable
Either vertically or horizontally polarized antennas may be used for transmission or reception
• FM voice is unusable
• Both the transmitting and receiving antennas must be of the same polarization

Skip signals or skywave propagation can be used to communicate beyond the horizon, at intercontinental distances. It is mostly used in the shortwave frequency bands.

Elliptically polarized signals have a vertical and horizontal component, and thus that component can be received by either a horizontally or vertically polarized antenna.

If a signal were strictly horizontal, then receiving it on a vertical antenna would result in significant loss. The same when receiving a vertically polarized signal on a horizontal antenna.

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What may occur if data signals arrive via multiple paths?
• Transmission rates can be increased by a factor equal to the number of separate paths observed
• Transmission rates must be decreased by a factor equal to the number of separate paths observed
• No significant changes will occur if the signals are transmitted using FM
Error rates are likely to increase

When the same signal propagates over multiple paths the different paths will generally be a slightly different distance and different angles. As a result, the signal arrives at the destination from multiple directions at multiple times. Since radio waves travel at the speed of light, this difference in time will be very minor, but even a slight difference is enough to cause the recombination of those somewhat out of phase with each other signals at the end to create a type of distortion called multipath distortion. When the signal is a data signal, this distortion causes information loss leading to higher error rates.

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Which part of the atmosphere enables the propagation of radio signals around the world?
• The stratosphere
• The troposphere
The ionosphere
• The magnetosphere

The ionosphere is the upper layer of the atmosphere which becomes ionized when exposed to radiation from the sun. When it is ionized it effectively reflects radio waves back towards the ground which allow the signals to travel farther than they normally could.

To better understand this, think of a room separated into cubicles: you can't see your coworkers in their cubicle because there is a wall in the way. However, if you put a mirror on the ceiling then you would be able to see all of your coworkers by looking at the mirror on the ceiling. The Ionosphere reflects radio waves in more or less the same way.

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How might fog and light rain affect radio range on 10 meter and 6 meter bands?
• Fog and rain absorb these wavelength bands
Fog and light rain will have little effect on these bands
• Fog and rain will deflect these signals
• Fog and rain will increase radio range

The main thing to remember is that the higher the frequency, the more RF energy is absorbed (and converted into heat) by water and solids.

For 10m and 6m wavelengths, the frequency isn't high enough to be affected by fog and light rain so fog and light rain will have little effect on those bands.

The easiest way to remember this is your microwave oven. The microwave oven is a microwave oven because the oven microwave frequency used is optimized for getting absorbed by and thus heating the water in your food.

If your microwave oven were a 10m or 6m wave oven instead, it wouldn't be much of an oven because your leftovers wouldn't be getting very warm at the same power usage. 10m and 6m are rather far from "micro" when it comes to wavelength.

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What weather condition would decrease range at microwave frequencies?
• High winds
• Low barometric pressure
Precipitation
• Colder temperatures

The main thing to remember is that the higher the frequency, the more RF energy is absorbed (and converted into heat) by water and solids.

Since microwaves are Extremely High Frequency or greater, the weather condition that would decrease range at microwave frequencies would be precipitation. None of the other options have any significant effect.

The easiest way to remember this is your microwave oven. The microwave oven functions as an oven because the oven microwave frequency used is optimized for being absorbed by water. Because most food contains a large amount of water, this energy absorption readily heats the food in the oven. Microwaves getting absorbed by water and converted into heat is great for heating food, but not for transmitting a radio signal.

If your microwave oven were a longwave or shortwave oven instead, it wouldn't be much of an oven because your leftovers wouldn't be getting too terribly warm at the same power.

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