NOAA chief warns 24 GHz 5G would hamper weather forecasting

Meteorologists use sensors to detect faint radio frequency signals emitted by atmospheric conditions. (Pixabay)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) acting chief Neil Jacobs told members of Congress last week that 5G deployments using 24 GHz spectrum could negatively impact weather forecasting.

Jacobs told the House Subcommittee on the Environment that the use of 24 GHz spectrum for mobile 5G could reduce the accuracy of weather forecasts by 30%, sending us back in time to the 1980s.

The Federal Communications Commission opened Auction 102 for nearly 3,000 Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) licenses in the 24.25 GHz to 24.45 GHz and 24.75 GHz to 25.25 GHz bands in March, despite objections from NOAA, NASA, and the American Meteorological Society.

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Meteorologists use sensors to detect faint radio frequency signals emitted by atmospheric conditions. Meteorological satellites monitor various frequencies to collect data and predict weather. For example, water vapor emits signals at a frequency of 23.8 GHz, according to Jordan Gerth, a research meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in an interview with Wired.

Meteorologists use frequency bands between 36 GHz and 37 GHz to detect rain and snow, between 50.2 GHz and 50.4 GHz to detect atmospheric temperatures, and between 80 GHz and 90 GHz to detect clouds and ice, Gerth said.

In his testimony, Jacobs said the FCC’s current plans for 5G spectrum use would result in 77% of weather data collected by NOAA satellites being lost to interference from cellular 5G transmitters. 

Agencies around the world are expected to determine global standards for interference levels for 5G at the ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 in October.

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