last updated September 21, 2021

NIST and Amateur Radio discuss WWV / WWVH broadcast modifications

The WWV/WWVH Scientific Modulation Working Group was announced this past Friday, 9/17/21, during the first day of the 40th TAPR DCC presentations.

The working group is made up of representatives of NIST leadership, WWV/WWVH Station Staff, Geospace scientists, Engineers, HamSCI Grape1 development team, and the WWV Amateur Radio Club.

A series of conversations and emails this spring (2021) led to a suggestion from NIST to consider changes to their modulation that could benefit HamSci research and the Personal Space Weather Station efforts. 

Phil Erickson, W1PJE, and Steve Cerwin, WA5FRF, presented current HamSCI and other ionospheric research efforts to the NIST Time and Frequency Division in a March 2021 meeting at the invitation of Dr. Elizabeth Donley, Chief of the division.  The NIST team was quite interested and recommended moving forward with discussions.

In May 2021, the working group formed and established the main goal:  Develop recommendations for additions to WWV/WWVH modulation that can be used for scientific purpose, particularly through the Personal Space Weather Station and citizen science campaigns.

Subsequent meetings throughout the summer 2021 lead to the development of a first “characterization signal” which will soon be test broadcast by WWV and WWVH; the time and date to be determined.

Kristina Collins, KD8OXT, spokesperson and main point of contact for the group, outlined the goals, make-up, and primary motivations for the collaboration.

In designing the Characterization Signal the team took several basic principles into consideration:

  • Primum non nocere: First, do no harm.  Avoid disrupting existing WWV services and uses.
  • Do something useful for science and for NIST’s prime customers of time and frequency.
  • What science questions can we focus on by doing something more than we already have today?

The Characterization Signal will consist of a 45 second WAV file on minute 8 for WWV and minute 48 for WWVH.  Right now it is planned as a standard voice announcement, inserted into the broadcast chain as an audio file. 

One of the first observations will be to characterize the signal chain from the WAV file to the signal leaving the antenna as it goes through several filters and broadcast on different types of amplifiers.  Also important are the signals at various receiving stations, and several of the KIWISDR network will be used for recording and the test broadcast may include a crowdsource campaign.  The broadcast will provide an opportunity to prototype future receiving stations and potential processing applications and procedures.

A full description of the Characterization Signal and audio files are available at

Updates on the efforts will be posted here at WWV ARC and also at the HamSCI website:  Kristina's presentation to TAPR from Friday is posted here as well.

This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for collaboration between Amateur Radio and the federal government’s lead physical science laboratory, NIST, and harkens back 100 years to the Fading Experiments coordinated between the then NBS and an early ARRL.

The working group is very interested in hearing from other interested scientists and engineers who may have additional insight that could capitalize from and contribute to this collaboration.

Please contact Kristina Collins, KD8OXT, for further information.

WWV ARC will be adding to this story in the very near future as more details unfold about when the test Characterization Signal will be broadcast.  Stay Tuned!