Could 5G deployment impact weather reporting?

I am several degrees shy of my meteorologist degree. (OK – all credits shy.) But I found this fascinating. Evaluation Engineering reports that 5G may hinder the 10-day forecast…

The current adage in meteorology is that today’s 10-day weather forecast is as accurate as the seven-day used to be, which is as accurate as the five-day used to be in the 1990s, which is accurate as the three-day used to be in the 1980s. Those crucial extra forecast days gained over the years has allowed local governments to issue evacuations at least several days before hurricanes impact an area, and gives local services time to prepare for damaging impacts and the aftermath following the storm.

But according to many people involved with this forecasting, the onset of 5G technology could ruin that decades-long progress. This past May, the acting chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Neil Jacobs, testified on Capitol Hill that the interference from 5G wireless technology could reduce the accuracy of weather forecasting by as much as 30%. Jacobs told the House Subcommittee on the Environment that such a setback would result in coastal residence having at least two or three less days to prepare for a hurricane and could lead to less accurate predictions on the path of hurricanes and where they will make landfall, endangering lives by doing so. Jacobs said that’d set hurricane forecasts back to where they were in 1980.

Here’s the reason…

In a nutshell, the issue with 5G and weather forecasting comes from 5G’s use of spectrum in the 24 GHz frequency band, which is nearly that the 23.8 GHz spectrum band that NOAA uses to gather data for weather prediction. Some of the frequencies the Federal Communications Commission plans to use for 5G are located next to the only frequency where weather satellites can detect water vapor—a crucial component for weather forecasting, especially for hurricanes. …

Water vapor emits a faint 23.8 GHz signal in the earth’s atmosphere, which satellites monitor to collect data that is then fed into weather prediction models. That gives meteorologists no flexibility to use a different frequency.

“We can’t move away from 23.8 or we would,” Jordan Gerth, a research meteorologist at the Universifty of Wisconsin-Madison told WIRED in May. “As far as 5G is concerned, the administration has a priority to put 5G on the spectrum, and they thought this was an OK place to do it. It’s just close to where we are sensing the weather.”

Gerth and Jacobs said that reducing the power emitted by 5G wireless radios could help prevent some of spectrum-water vapor interference. NOAA and NASA want to limit interference noise to closer to that considered acceptable by the European Union and World Meteorological Organization. At its current FCC proposal, Jacobs said 5G interference would result in a 77% loss in data from NOAA satellite sensors.

It is interesting to me that the FCC is not in line with European Union and World Meteorological Organization standards. I would have thought there’s be more alignment with something like this. It sounds like more issues may come up – some will likely have a greater impact on Minnesota weather watchers…

But even if a compromise is met between the meteorological community and the FCC over the 23.8 GHz frequency used to track water vapor, it won’t be the last clash between those two sides. Down the road, the FCC plans to action off 5G radio frequency bands close to that used to detect rain and snow (36-37 GHz), atmospheric temperature (50.2-50.4 GHz), and clouds and ice (80-90 GHz). So, expect to hear similar news about these issues going forward.

This entry was posted in FCC, Wireless by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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