Hurricane Forecasts May Revert to 1970 Accuracy Due to 5G Conflict


The FCC is poised to auction off a 5G bandwidth that is likely to interfere weather forecasts.

The FCC, which want to proceed with a 5G auction, is at odds with the commerce department, the defense department, and NASA.

The dispute regards wavelength frequencies currently used by public and private weather satellites, weather balloons, and ocean buoys to predict the weather.

NASA and the Commerce department have serious concerns.

Please consider Critical weather data threatened by FCC ‘spectrum’ proposal, Commerce Dept. and NASA say.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine urged the FCC to remove a policy paper [bandwidth] proposal that “would have a significant negative impact on the transmission of critical Earth science data supporting public safety, natural disaster and weather forecasting."

On Friday [March 8], the FCC rejected the request. It said that it had already “engaged extensively” with Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, and that matters had been settled by the State Department, the appointed “arbiter.”

Jordan Gerth, a researcher at University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, said that if this data were corrupted, it would harm the accuracy of weather models relied on by forecasters.

“Passive microwave observations from satellites drive three- to seven-day forecast skill,” he said.

“It is crucial the allowable levels of interference are decided in a way that is informed by atmospheric science since the measurements are so crucial to sound weather predictions,” said Renee Leduc Clarke, founder of Narayan Strategy, a weather and climate policy consultancy based in Washington.

Passive Microwave Energy

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Auction Begins

Today, the Washington Post reports FCC to auction off wireless spectrum that could interfere with vital weather data, rejecting requests from U.S. House and science agencies.

The Federal Communications Commission intends to move ahead with a plan to auction off wireless radio frequencies that scientists say could harm critical satellite data used in weather forecasting.

In a last-ditch effort to intervene, three subcommittee chairs from the House Appropriations Committee, and the House Science Committee, chaired by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) penned separate letters Wednesday to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking that the auction be delayed.

The Appropriations Committee letter had stressed that a delay “is necessary to allow for further review of potential interference to adjacent band uses that are critical for national security as well as the protection of American lives and property.”

It explained that the NOAA “uses the 23.6-24 GHz spectrum band for microwave sensor-based remote sensing of atmospheric levels of water vapor, which is the single most impactful data stream for accurately forecasting weather. This data is used by NOAA’s National Weather Service, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Defense (DOD), in addition to the broader international weather community.”

Without this data, the letter said, forecasting accuracy “would be reduced to the accuracy of forecasts produced in the 1970s.”

Rushing 5G More Important Than Accurate Weather

Apparently, rushing 5G is far more important than accurately predicting hurricanes and 3-5 day weather patterns.

What more amazing is the requests come from NASA, the Commerce department, weather scientists and even the Defense Department.

The letter to the FCC simply asked for non-interference in bandwidths already in use for weather forecasting.

The FCC said no.

5G Trumps Weather

Space News reports 5G trumps weather in spectrum debate

The FCC is preparing to auction 2,909 licenses in the 24.25 to 25.25 bands of the electromagnetic spectrum on March 14. At the same time, the FCC is preparing the U.S. government’s proposal for the 2019 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) in Egypt starting in October. The U.S. plan for protecting passive microwave services from interference is far less stringent than plans published by other nations.

Meteorologists have expressed concerns for many years about radio frequency interference but the debate is becoming more heated in 2019 due to the FCC’s planned auctions and the upcoming WRC meeting. The WRC brings together nations every three to four years to update international regulations on radio spectrum usage.

Meteorologists worry they will lose access to specific portions of the electromagnetic spectrum they rely on for Earth observation. The 23.6 to 24 GHz band, for example, is a key dataset for passive microwave sensors monitoring atmospheric water vapor, said Jordan Gerth, associate researcher at the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. Gerth also chairs the American Meteorological Society’s Committee on Radio Frequency Allocations.

The problem is the same spectral bands and adjacent bands also work well for 5G technology. If 5G moves into the same or adjacent bands, meteorologists worry about interference. Passive microwave sensors pick up an extremely faint signal that could easily be drowned out by transmission in an adjacent band.

“We’ve been burned several times by out-of-band emissions,” Sidharth Misra, microwave instrument scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at the American Meteorological Society conference in Phoenix in January. “They promise to not have out-of-band emissions. They fail. It’s too late. We lose a science channel.”

Without microwave sensor data, forecasters would not have been able to predict the path of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Eastern seaboard in 2012, researchers said at the American Meteorological Society conference.

House Technology Panel Seeks Delay in 5G Spectrum Auction

Also note that the House Technology Panel Seeks Delay in 5G Spectrum Auction.

The Science, Space and Technology Committee's Democratic chairwoman, Eddie Bernice Johnson, and its top Republican, Frank Lucas, cited concerns that the spectrum under consideration could interfere with signals for sensors related to weather and climate forecasting, and said such interference could impact public safety.

What the Hell is the Priority?

The FCC’s Brian Hart said the plan to auction this spectrum has “been on the books since 2007” and that “it is therefore perplexing to be asked to postpone this auction the day before it is going to start.”

The request was made last week, not the day before. But yes, that is the last minute in a manner of speaking.

Regardless, what the hell is the priority here?

If there is a strong chance public safety is at risk, as seems the case, it is idiotic to suggest it is too late to make a change.

The FCC should hold off on auctioning this portion of the spectrum or at least widen the spread between to reduce chance of interference.

"Sorry, it's too late to be concerned about lives" seems to be the message.

I smell lawsuits.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (13)
No. 1-11

I have to side with Hart on this one. In practical planning terms, 12 years is forever, and not unlike Y2K, another predictable non-issue, should absolutely not be raised in the 11th hour to prevent a key enabling technology's planned rollout.

However, if Gerth is merely posturing to anticipate and prevent lethargic industry response if and when he starts bitching about any future real interference with his gear, I applaud the move. It's smart and they need to look and listen carefully and respond immediately if and when any evidence of actual interference is presented.

The same violation prevention laws and penalties should apply as in the past: Your antenna infringes, you go offline and blow up your business plan. I doubt we'll see the likes of Verizon, T, etc. getting caught pants-down by this one. But, if we sit around waiting for lawyers to finish their catfights, we'll be back to waxed strings and tin cans before they're done.



Good grief, can't congress do something useful for a change, and delay this until it is sorted out?


This headline is utterly ridiculous. While a useful tool this satellite band would not have had the model data showing Sandy hitting Maine close to landfall time. that prediction as I recall was about 84 hours out. By the 48 hour landfall prediction the forecast had already corrected to western Long Island or the central Jersey coastline. Where he pulled that 1970 date from is purely subjective.

JonSellers weather science is a real thing.


World insect populations are plummeting and scientists don't know why. Could be habitat destruction, pesticides, microwave transmitters, climate change, or ?. Or a combination. Seems like someone should get on a handle on this before we blast the world with high frequency microwaves.


I applaud Mish for posting support for the scientific collection of satellite data relating to weather and climate analysis. This data is crucial to scientists being able to provide us with forecasts that can save human lives.


The rush is money i'm sure. It always is. Not sure where the savings will be when people get blown away but as long as the right people get theirs and are happy who cares, right?


I am tempted by this blog to say, Let market forces sort it out.

This would mean billions of losses for all kinds of satellites and equipment, much funded by the public sector! You would think different arms of the same government are not at odds with each other, although, after seeing CIA sponsored jihadis duking it out with Pentagon sponsored jihadis in Syria, anything is possible. Says a lot about the level of co-operation and co-ordination society is at.

I think there's more to this story. It's probably not a coincidence that they are after the same band-widths. I fear there are fundamental issues preventing an easy solution.


And since storm severity and frequency is increasing - witness the terrible storms we just went through - this is the worst possible time to decrease forecast accuracy.


The highest frequency microwaves are right in the size range to resonate with small insects bodies, between 2 and 4 mm. We could see a mass death of an essential part of the biosphere.


Hummm, the auction does not cross the NOOA needed frequencies. This is a non-issue at this point or I am missing something? They say they worry, but the frequency numbers are not showing a need for such at this point.

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