Even if Cloudy, You May 'Hear' Eclipse on AM Radio

You may not need a radio as complicated as this one to hear distant AM signals during Monday's eclipse. You may not need a radio as complicated as this one to hear distant AM signals during Monday's eclipse. |  Photo: WDIO-TV file

Jon Ellis
August 18, 2017 02:31 PM

Even if skies are cloudy in the Northland on Monday, you may still be able to experience the eclipse by using an AM radio.

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That's because a phenomenon that occurs every night may also happen during the eclipse, and it will happen while AM stations are operating at their maximum power.

A layer of the ionosphere acts differently depending on whether it is getting sunlight. During the day, the layer allows AM radio waves to travel into space. At night, it acts like a radio mirror, bouncing AM signals back down to earth hundreds or even thousands of miles away, leading regulators to require many stations to reduce power at night.

This nightly "skywave" reception is largely predictable. For example, several stations from Chicago and other Midwestern cities can be easily heard in the Northland every night because they are on frequencies set aside long ago for long-distance reception.

But reception during eclipses is less well-documented and harder to predict, both because eclipses do not happen very frequently and because stations do not have to reduce power. Stations that are not normally heard at night may fade in during the eclipse.

For most people, a car radio may be the best type of receiver to hear distant signals. Better reception can be achieved by staying away from power lines and street lights, which can interfere with AM reception.


Jon Ellis

Copyright 2017 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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