The end of WWV and WWVH?


WWV is commonly known as the radio station in Boulder Colorado that broadcasts the time standard for the US. WWVH covers Hawaii. Most of our “atomic clocks” and more synchronize to it nightly.

NIST has proposed budget cuts that would shut down WWV in 2019.

A slashdotter wrote:

Has anyone read any authoritative information about the potential impact of shutting it down?


I didn’t find it when I looked for it just now, but I recall reading how clock synchronization was a major improvement for rail transportation.

Of course the impact would depend on how much drift there was and how long it went uncorrected. What might be only a relatively minor annoyance for a passenger train not being on schedule, might be a financial hit for a freight train.

For a retired person losing a second a day probably not much of a problem. For a factory losing an accumulated few minutes of productivity a year, more so. If the stock market works like I think it does, not knowing the exact moment the closing bell rings could mean a difference of millions of dollars.

I think where synchronization would be crucial is coordination of military events. Clocks not being synchronized to the split second could result in a National Security risk.


I imagine that critical synchronization is handled by the GPS satellite system nowadays or by a permanent internet type of connection or hard wired line. The only devices that use the WWV radio signal that I am aware of nowadays are the consumer grade “atomic clocks”. I read some historical info that mentioned railroad schedules and several other utilitiies/services that benefited from it when it was introduced, but that was long ago. I am wondering what kinds of services might still be using it. I can’t imagine who would be affected nowadays other than consumers, so I am curious to hear from anyone who might have current knowledge of timing systems. My hands-on experience was 50 ago. :tongue:


Yes, precision has increased immensely over the years. Considering all of the clocks in my home are correct to “plus or minus a few minutes” I doubt I’d ever notice or care about a few seconds. Let alone .0000001 of a second. (from the site)

the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the U. S. Naval Observatory (USNO). Readings from the clocks of these agencies contribute to world time, called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The time maintained by both agencies should never differ by more than 0.000 0001 seconds from UTC


So here are the ways I’ve used WWV:

As a source for a stratum 1 NTP server
Consumer grade “atomic” clocks
Automatic time zone correction on some of my clocks
Checking my shortwave radio’s frequency calibration
Oscillator calibration from the tone signals broadcast on my lab equipment.
I listened to the storm warnings and weather reports
And finally as a beacon to indicate which shortwave frequencies are propagating to my area right now.


Honestly, I haven’t listened to the broadcast in decades, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to. I kind of miss it. But I do not currently own a radio that can tune in to those frequencies. I’ll have to correct that.

I remember listening to it when I was a kid. Loved it. Could listen to it for hours.


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