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Freeway freq-out

Image by Rick Geary

Heymatt:

How come there is so much FM radio interference on the 94 freeway between Lemon Grove and the 805? It sounds like overlapping Mexican stations.

-- Nameless, on the road

Short answer? The terrain, the weather, the strange nature of radio waves, a crummy car radio tuner. Take your pick. Basically, FM radio transmissions travel in a straight line until they hit a barrier like a hill or a building and bounce off. They also travel for a particular distance determined by the amount of output power the station is allowed to have. The number of signals your radio can pick up depends on the quality of your receiver and antenna. Put these together and it's safe to say between 805 and Lemon Grove there are few barriers to the Spanish-language signals (or maybe you're hearing reflected signals that have bounced off something), your radio can pick them all up, but your tuner can't separate them. At any rate, the radio gods conspire to make that a zone where you get lots of interference from several stations broadcasting at or near the frequency your radio is tuned to. San Diego is a special kind of radio-signal hell because radio waves know no borders. We have agreements with Mexico that are supposed to keep this to a minimum, and transmitters and station frequencies are supposed to be coordinated so they don't overlap with one another. But it's a constant battle to make sure what looks good on paper actually happens when you turn on your station transmitter.

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Image by Rick Geary

Heymatt:

How come there is so much FM radio interference on the 94 freeway between Lemon Grove and the 805? It sounds like overlapping Mexican stations.

-- Nameless, on the road

Short answer? The terrain, the weather, the strange nature of radio waves, a crummy car radio tuner. Take your pick. Basically, FM radio transmissions travel in a straight line until they hit a barrier like a hill or a building and bounce off. They also travel for a particular distance determined by the amount of output power the station is allowed to have. The number of signals your radio can pick up depends on the quality of your receiver and antenna. Put these together and it's safe to say between 805 and Lemon Grove there are few barriers to the Spanish-language signals (or maybe you're hearing reflected signals that have bounced off something), your radio can pick them all up, but your tuner can't separate them. At any rate, the radio gods conspire to make that a zone where you get lots of interference from several stations broadcasting at or near the frequency your radio is tuned to. San Diego is a special kind of radio-signal hell because radio waves know no borders. We have agreements with Mexico that are supposed to keep this to a minimum, and transmitters and station frequencies are supposed to be coordinated so they don't overlap with one another. But it's a constant battle to make sure what looks good on paper actually happens when you turn on your station transmitter.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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