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Why are local radio stations 94.5, 103.7 and 104.5 not coming in as clearly as they once did?

John Staton

Not only can the dog days of August make your car overheat, but they can also wreak havoc with your radio signal.

According to general managers of two local radio broadcasting companies, the reason why some radio stations might not be coming in as clearly as normal might be attributable to a phenomenon known as ‘inversion.’

“Recently with the heat there was an inversion situation with it being so hot,” said David Patella, general manager of Sunrise Broadcasting, which owns ‘Sunny’ 104.5 FM (WILT) and several other radio stations. “It’s not anything technical or power-wise, it’s just the heat.”

It’s pretty complicated, but inversion is basically a meteorological term that also refers to when a radio signal gets caught between two layers of air that are different temperatures. It can cause static or signals from other stations can bleed into the station one is trying to access.

“I’ve had stations three and four states away come in and interfere with our signal,” said Paul Knight, vice-president and general manager of Sea-Comm Media, which owns ‘The Bone’ 103.7 FM (WBNE) and several other radio stations.

Inversion usually happens in the spring or the fall, when it’s common for hot and cold air masses come into conflict, but it can also happen in the summer when it’s hot and humid.

“It very rarely happens in winter,” Knight said.

Both Knight and Patella said that the phenomenon would be most pronounced at the fringes of the signal, and less likely where the signal is strongest.

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