Last night, it was reported that there was a coronal mass ejection (CME) that resulted in an aurora being seen as far south as Atlanta, GA. The aurora, more commonly known as the Northern Lights, are usually only visible as far south as the northern tier of the United States.
I knew something was up as soon as I turned on my rig last night. Nearly every signal had some auroral flutter on it. Auroral flutter is caused by radio waves bouncing off the ever-changing aurora or passing through it. When severe, auroral flutter can make a signal nearly unreadable.
Auroral flutter is usually limited to signals that pass over the North Pole. I first became aware of this phenomenon when I worked several stations in Northern Russia. Last night, though, even U.S. stations had this characteristic flutter. I was a little flummoxed by this. I’d never heard this on domestic QSOs.
I got to talking about this with Steve, N4LQ. He said that he was at first a little taken aback by the auroral flutter, because he had been fooling around with the receiver section of the HW-16 he was using and didn’t know if the odd sound he was hearing was the result of his experiments or band conditions. I assured him that it wasn’t the receiver. :)