5G Networks Could Seriously Degrade Weather Forecast Satellites, Reducing Accuracy by 30%

The introduction of 5G mobile phone networks could seriously affect weather forecasters’ ability to predict major storms.

That’s according to a new report from Wired which explains that worldwide meteorologists are saying the next-generation wireless system now being rolled out across the globe is likely to disrupt the delicate satellite instruments they use to monitor changes in the atmosphere.

The result will be impaired forecasts, poorer warnings about major storms, and loss of life, they say.

“The way 5G is being introduced could seriously compromise our ability to forecast major storms,” said Tony McNally of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading. “In the end, it could make the difference between life and death. We are very concerned about this.”

The FCC offered the 24-GHz frequency band to wireless carriers earlier this year, the same range (23.6-24 GHz) in which water vapour signals in the atmosphere are picked up by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) and other agencies’ weather satellites and microwave sounders. According to estimates, allowing 5G to live on this frequency would result in somewhere between a 30 to 77 percent data loss for NOAA satellites and bring our weather prediction capabilities to the same proficiency it had in 1980.

Turning down the power emitted by 5G wireless radios could help prevent some of this interference. But NOAA’s acting chief Neil Jacobs said experts from the FCC and NOAA are collaborating to come up with a solution, and he noted he was optimistic a solution will be found.

The Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA, said that it “strongly supports the administration’s policy to promote U.S. leadership in secure 5G networks, while at the same time sustaining and improving critical government and scientific missions.” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke at length about his concerns over 5G at an agency meeting earlier this month. “This is a big deal,” Bridenstine said.

The FCC plans to begin its next 5G auction, which will be the country’s largest ever, in December. It will involve three more frequency bands—some of which are used for satellite observations of precipitation, sea ice and clouds.

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