The Earth’s atmosphere

Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by John Berry

Personal background

Hi, I’m John Berry. For many years I worked worldwide and run companies in radiocommunications. I was first interested in ham radio in the 60s and got my callsign GM8JBJ in the early 70s. My core interest is radiowave propagation in the Earth’s atmosphere.

This site, Ham Radio Engineering, documents my understanding of propagation.

It’s a site dedicated to my investigation, analysis and research into the Earth’s atmosphere using radio waves.

Engineers have used radio waves to communicate between two points on the Earth’s surface since the late 1800s. Today, that communication is ubiquitous across four principle services – mobile, fixed, satellite and broadcasting. That communication has transformed the way we all live.

Radio waves propagate from one point to another (or rather, one point to many others) through the Earth’s atmosphere.

Showing the five layers of the Earth’s atmosphere from ground to about 3,000km.
Five Layers of the Earth’s atmosphere

The Earth’s atmosphere

The Earth’s atmosphere comprises five ‘regions’. Propagation in the lowest layer, the troposphere, is typically point to point. Propagation in the other four upper regions involves some sort of reflection, refraction or scattering of the waves. There, signals from one point on the Earth’s surface typically go up, get reflected, refracted or scattered and come back down somewhere else.

Whether or not this propagation is useful depends on its efficiency. That efficiency depends in turn on the propagation mode, equipment used and frequency of the signal.

Engineers like me have designed communications systems to exploit particular modes. Radio amateurs (or ‘hams’) can investigate, analyse and research using low-cost equipment to probe those modes and propose new. The goal is greater understanding of the science of the atmosphere – and having some fun along the way.

Professional and amateur worlds

Engineers, like me in my professional life, design systems for society. They want high effectiveness, supporting communication for high percentages of time and locations. Radio hams are happy with very low effectiveness. They will rejoice in a fleeting communication. But those fleeting communications build understanding. And understanding feeds new modes that engineers may subsequently exploit.

There is much known about the Earth’s atmosphere – particularly since mankind has launched research satellites into the thermosphere and exosphere. There is now much theory supported by research. And there is much yet to know.

This site

This site aims to add to that knowledge about the Earth’s atmosphere by explaining rather than by undertaking new research. It aims to challenge how we come to know about the atmosphere (epistemology) in order that we can enhance what we do know (ontology).

The site is a continual work in progress starting in 2021 and hopefully spanning many years.

In the menu above, you’ll find a note of my station, my areas of interest and how to contact me. The central body of the site, with papers, is in the knowledgebase. And then there’s some historic stuff under the History tab.