5G wireless may disrupt weather forecasts, causing anxiety among meteorologists
07 October 2020
Upcoming 5G wireless networks that will provide faster cell phone service may lead to inaccurate weather forecasts.
"Our study – the first of its kind that quantifies the effect of 5G on weather prediction error – suggests that there is an impact on the accuracy of weather forecasts," said senior author Narayan B. Mandayam.
Fifth-generation cellular wireless technology (5G) stems from new, smarter ways to use the higher (mmWave) frequencies for mobile communications. This technology will revolutionise internet communication and telecommunication. It has faster connection times, increases the number of devices that can connect to a network and will be more widely available over the next two to three years, according to IEEE.
The Rutgers study used computer modelling to examine the impact of 5G "leakage" – unintended radiation from a transmitter into an adjacent frequency band or channel – on forecasting the deadly 2008 Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak in the South and Midwest.
The signals from the 5G frequency bands potentially could leak into the band used by weather sensors on satellites that measure the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere and affect weather forecasting and predictions. Meteorologists rely on satellites for the data needed to forecast weather.
Based on modelling, 5G leakage power of -15 to -20 decibel Watts (a decibel Watt is a unit of power that describes the strength of radio waves) affected the accuracy of forecasting of precipitation (by up to 0.9 millimetres) during the tornado outbreak and temperatures near ground level (by up to 2.34 degrees Fahrenheit).
"It can be argued that the magnitude of error found in our study is insignificant or significant, depending on whether you represent the 5G community or the meteorological community, respectively," Mandayam said.
"One of our takeaways is that if we want leakage to be at levels preferred by the 5G community, we need to work on more detailed models as well as antenna technology, dynamic reallocation of spectrum resources and improved weather forecasting algorithms that can take into account 5G leakage."