UCAR statement on opening the 24 GHz spectrum

Degraded weather forecasts could affect public safety, national security

Jun 18, 2019 - by David Hosansky

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) today warned that opening high-frequency radio spectrum to telecommunications providers may significantly interfere with weather forecasts needed to protect the public and support essential military operations.

UCAR called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay opening up the 24 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum until it can reach agreement with U.S. science agencies over protecting satellite‐based measurements of atmospheric water vapor that are critical for accurate forecasts.

"UCAR and its 117 member colleges and universities are deeply concerned that opening up the 24 GHz spectrum could affect essential weather data needed to protect life and property, ensure continued economic competitiveness, and maintain national security," said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. "The government must protect weather satellite transmissions so Americans can continue to rely on accurate and timely forecasts."

Weather satellites transmit water vapor data, a central ingredient for accurate forecasts, at a frequency of 23.8 GHz. The data would be vulnerable to interference if wireless companies begin using the adjacent 24 GHz band for 5G technology. Meteorologists have warned that weather forecasting could be set back decades if the 24 GHz band is opened.

In March, the FCC auctioned spectrum for wireless transmission in the 24 GHz band. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, however, are warning that lives and property could be at risk if forecasts of hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters were degraded. The profitability of US .industries, ranging from agriculture and energy to manufacturing and transportation, could also be adversely affected if forecasts become less accurate.

“U.S. leadership in 5G networks is a laudable goal that we fully support, but it must not come at the expense of weather forecasts that are critical to the personal safety of our citizens and the nation's prosperity," Busalacchi said.

UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of 117 colleges and universities focused on research and training in the Earth system sciences.

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