Radio propagation is the behavior of radio waves when they are transmitted, or propagated from one point on the Earth to another, or into various parts of the atmosphere. Like light waves, radio waves are affected by the phenomena of reflection, refraction, diffraction, absorption, polarization and scattering.
Radio propagation is affected by the daily changes of water vapor in the troposphere and ionization in the upper atmosphere, due to the Sun. Understanding the effects of varying conditions on radio propagation has many practical applications, from choosing frequencies for international shortwave broadcasters, to designing reliable mobile telephone systems, to radio navigation, to operation of radar systems. Radio propagation is also affected by several other factors determined by its path from point to point. This path can be a direct line of sight path or an over-the-horizon path aided by refraction in the ionosphere. Factors influencing ionospheric radio signal propagation can include sporadic-E, spread-F, solar flares, geomagnetic storms, ionospheric layer tilts, and solar proton events.
Radio waves at different frequencies propagate in different ways. The interaction of radio waves with the ionized regions of the atmosphere makes radio propagation more complex to predict and analyze than in free space. Ionospheric radio propagation has a strong connection to space weather. A sudden ionospheric disturbance or shortwave fadeout is observed when the x-rays associated with a solar flare ionize the ionospheric D-region. Enhanced ionization in that region increases the absorption of radio signals passing through it. During the strongest solar x-ray flares, complete absorption of virtually all ionospherically propagated radio signals in the sunlit hemisphere can occur. These solar flares can disrupt HF radio propagation and affect GPS accuracy.
Predictions of the average propagation conditions were needed and made during the Second world war. A most detailed code developed by Karl Rawer was applied in the German Wehrmacht, and after the war by the French Navy.
Since radio propagation is not fully predictable, such services as emergency locator transmitters, in-flight communication with ocean-crossing aircraft, and some television broadcasting have been moved to communications satellites. A satellite link, though expensive, can offer highly predictable and stable line of sight coverage of a given area.
read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_propagation
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