Some scientists are trying to stop the expansion of the 5G cellular network.
BOULDER, Colorado – Some meteorologists are concerned that the expansion of the 5G cellular network could interfere with satellite observations, which could reduce the effectiveness of weather forecasts.
The Earth’s atmosphere naturally emits radio waves. Satellite sensors pick up these radio waves and translate them into meteorological data such as temperature and water vapor.
These radio waves travel on very low and very specific frequencies.
“And these frequencies, of which there are about half a dozen, are a gift of nature and they are the only ones that work that way,” said Bill Mahoney, a meteorologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
Mahoney said 90 percent of the data that goes into computer prediction models comes from information on those radio waves.
The problem for meteorologists is that cellular companies want to buy these frequencies from the government.
Mahoney said that there are only certain frequencies that are suitable for communications, and these frequencies are so coveted because they can transmit data through the metal of your car and the walls of your home.
And they can support a lot more users.
He said the government had already cut some frequencies that could impact weather forecasts and expressed willingness to sell more soon.
The only way for cellular communications companies to expand the fifth generation cellular network, known as 5G, is to add a wider frequency range.
The frequencies sold are in the 24 GHz range.
This is very close to the 23.8 GHz signal emitted by water vapor. Mahoney is concerned that 5G cellular activity could bleed and disrupt weather satellites.
He said weather satellites could interpret cell activity as water vapor, rendering one of the most important components of a weather forecast unusable.
“If we lose the data from these passive channels, or if it gets disrupted, we could throw the weather forecasting skills back 30 years,” said Mahoney.
Mahoney and other scientists testified during a House committee meeting on July 20, in an attempt to stop or at least slow down the expansion.
“I am optimistic that we will be able to protect these channels until we perhaps have a solution that can be put in place,” he said.
Mahoney said he wants the expansion of the 5G cellular network to be successful, he just wants more time to study the impacts so that the atmospheric science community can perhaps come up with alternative solutions.
“And we think the federal government should fund additional research using perhaps some of the funds from those spectrum auctions,” he said. “So that we can get a better idea of what problem space really is.”
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