Why The Weather Community Is Worried About A New Faster Network


5G technology is the highly anticipated fast cellular network that will be 100 times faster than our current network. According to economists, 5G could have an enormous and positive impact on our nation’s growth. But it’s being warned against. 

There has been a quiet fight between the mobile industry and the weather community for a while now. It was made public recently when the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned Congress of the dangers. 

The concerns come from the frequency used for this new network and the possible interference with water vapor date used in forecasting. More specifically, 5G will use the 24 GHz frequency and water vapor imagery uses the 23.8 GHz frequency. There is fear that these frequencies are so close together that the water vapor imagery would be distorted and improperly read. Even worse, some 5G data could be seen as water vapor. 

Water vapor is important because it shows where the moisture is and it tells us a lot about the motion in the atmosphere. It’s vital in hurricane tracking because we don’t have radar in the middle of the ocean. Satellite imagery is all we have to detect and predict where a hurricane will move and if it will strengthen. Distorting this image could hurt hurricane prediction and it’s believed it could pull back the gains we’ve made in forecasting over the last 30 years. 

A voice among the weather community representing concerns is Marshall Sheperd, the Director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program, “90 percent of data going into forecast models come from weather satellites. If you remove a good portion of that satellite data you’re crippling our ability to make accurate weather forecasts.” 

So, of course, you can see why it’s a concern. Bad data will equal a bad forecast. Bad forecasts will cost our economy billions and put lives in danger. 

The mobile industry says there is no clear evidence these two frequencies will interfere with each other. But there is now more congressional support in holding off on this 5G switch until there is either a compromise or it’s better understood. 

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