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Wide-Scale TV Reception Problems Reported in Southern Australia

TV viewers in the south coast of Australia had difficulty receiving television broadcasts last week and the heat wave hitting Australia was cited as the reason by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office.

Gilmore Member of Parliament Ann Sudmalis attributed the problem to atmospheric ducting, according to in a story in Australia's “The Mercury.”

Sudmalis observed that due to the inversion television signals are traveling much further than usual and “interfering with a signal that's coming from another tower, whether that be a repeater tower or another receiving tower.”

I was able to see where the ducting was taking place using William Hepburn's excellent Tropospheric Ducting Forecast for Australia. Forecasts for the United States and other parts of the world can be found on the main page, William Hepburn's Worldwide Tropospheric Ducting Forecasts.

In the article Heat causing TV blackouts on South Coast in The Mercury, Glen Humphries writes, “From Gerringong through to Nowra and as far south as Bawley Point, TV reception has been sporadic over the past three or four days, with various commercial channels affected.”

Gerringong's Annette Wright is quoted in the article describing what happened while watching Lleyton Hewitt's Australian Open tennis march: “It was right at a crucial point in the match. Everyone's texting each other: 'My TV's gone down, what's happening?' I don't know, my TV's gone down, too. It's not a life-or-death thing, but it is a bit frustrating because I love the tennis and every night you go to watch the tennis and it's the middle of a good rally and—poof--it's gone. I've got a brand new TV and I've just recently had my antenna checked so I was worried that there might have been something I did.”

Fortunately ducting shouldn't be an issue in the United States during the upcoming Olympics, but if you get some odd reports of reception problems, it might be worth checking Mr. Hepburn's website

For more on how weather can affect TV reception, see an article I wrote in TV Technology more that 11 years ago: Enhanced Propagation of TV Signals.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.