2. 5G and a feared forecasting apocalypse
A struggle is brewing between the nation's weather and climate agencies and the wireless industry concerning 5G spectrum and the accuracy of your weather forecast, Axios' Kim Hart and I report.
Why it matters: A significant degradation in forecast accuracy could cause ripple effects throughout the economy, and could cost lives.
Details: In March, the FCC began auctioning off spectrum in the 24 GHz band of radio frequencies, which are high-frequency microwave licenses to be used in delivering the 5G services the nation's carriers are vying to deploy.
The problem: These auctioned airwaves are near those used by NOAA and NASA sensors on Earth-observing satellites, particularly a sensor called the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder. It's designed to see through clouds to understand what is happening inside weather systems, and it operates at a frequency of 23.8 GHz.
"Microwave satellite data is the weather-equivalent of a medical CAT scan," says Jordan Gerth, a meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin.
- Right before the auction began, NOAA and NASA warned that using the 24 GHz airwaves for 5G purposes could interfere with weather-forecasting sensors on polar-orbiting satellites.
Since the auction began, NOAA and NASA's concerns over the interference concerns have grown louder.
- On May 16, acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs told Congress that the emissions limit advanced by the FCC would result in about a 77% data loss from passive microwave sounders.
- "If you look back in time to see when our forecast skill was roughly 30% less than it was today, it's somewhere around 1980," Jacobs said.
The other side: This week, the wireless industry's main lobbying group CTIA torched the Commerce Department for using what it says are false interference claims to undermine the Trump administration's 5G strategy, and for not voicing concerns earlier in the 5-year planning process.
Meteorologists disagree: "The CTIA post is misleading if not inaccurate," Gerth tells Axios. "If 5G networks are deployed under the terms of the sale, this is a legitimate threat to forecast quality."
- "Our frequency allocations are based on the properties of molecules; we cannot sense somewhere else."
What's next: The U.S. will negotiate interference issues and technology standards with other countries that use global airwaves for 5G this fall at the World Radiocommunication Conference in Egypt.
Go deeper: Read the full story.