How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 295

Why do radio waves travel better at night?
AM radio waves travel remarkably long distances near dusk because of the behavior of the earth's atmosphere. A layer in the upper atmosphere, the ionosphere, contains many electrically charged particles and it behaves like a poor electrical conductor. Its conductivity improves in the early evening. When low frequency radio waves encounter this conducting layer, it responds to them and reflects them just like a mirror reflects light. As a result, you can hear very distant radio stations as their waves bounce of the ionosphere. FM transmissions occur at high frequencies that are too fast for the ionosphere to reflect.

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