What’s the Buzz About 5G and Weather Forecasts?
One hundred times faster than 4G, improved reliability and accessibility, increased cost-efficiency, a 5G network is all the rage in multiple spheres about the globe, be it tech junkies or the average smartphone user. Though, not everyone finds this new unveiling so exciting. Some meteorologists and atmospheric scientists have aired quite publicly that this introduction could pose issues for weather forecasting. The degree to which these new networks could interfere have raised cause for concern not just among meteorologists and forecasters, but those that rely on those forecasts as well.
5G, or “5th Generation Networks” similar to 4G networks, send and receive coded data via certain, precise bandwidths. Lower frequencies of these bandwidths are primarily occupied by TV, satellite, and even 4G. These low frequency bandwidths are extraordinarily crowded and have innumerable amounts of traffic, with more “cars,” or wireless devices, joining the road each second. In contrast, higher frequencies are less crowded and have miles of open road, so to speak. 5G aims to grab onto some of these less crowded bandwidths, specifically in the 24 Gigahertz (Ghz) range. This raises concern as weather satellites orbiting polar regions gather and send data very close to the 24 Ghz bandwidth.
There is worry that data and information from these 5G networks will leak into important signals being emitted and gathered from weather satellites. The 24Ghz signals are extremely close to the microwave lengths at which NOAA satellites transfer water vapor data that is so crucial in forecasting weather. Such interruptions may reduce the accuracy of weather forecasts and hinder forecasting ability, essentially returning weather forecasts to the past levels of accuracy.
With 5G in its infancy, and only just beginning to see the light of day in some cities across the United States, there is no knowing just how much, or how little it may affect weather forecasting ability. Some restrictions to wavelength use have been proposed to ease these fears, but the implementations would not be seen until the mid to late 2020’s, after 5G has taken its first steps, and begun to grow.
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© 2019 Weather Forecaster Alexis Clouser