As Hurricane Patricia barrelled down on Mexico last October, forecasters at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grabbed as many satellite images as they could to track its progress. But at least one crucial shot failed to download. A 22 October image from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system showed a black swathe — no data — across most of the Pacific Ocean.
“You couldn’t even see the hurricane,” says Al Wissman, chief of data management and continuity operations for NOAA’s satellite and information service in Silver Spring, Maryland. “That’s how devastated the imagery was.”
The culprit was radio interference from mobile-phone companies. And the problem may soon get worse. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering whether to allow a commercial mobile-phone company to share a crucial, additional set of frequencies that NOAA uses for time-critical weather transmissions.
If the application is granted, Ligado Networks of Reston, Virginia, will begin transmitting at frequencies between 1,675 and 1,680 megahertz. That overlaps with the communications range of NOAA’s next generation of GOES satellites, starting with the game-changing GOES-R probe that is set to launch in November. The satellite will transmit in three times the number of channels as do current satellites, providing images with four times the current resolution, and it will scan for weather events five times faster.
Last month, emergency managers, pilots, private weather forecasters and other groups flooded the FCC with letters arguing against the change. Researchers will discuss the proposal at a meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on 21 July.
On a list of stupid ideas, say 1 through 10, where number 1 would be to elect a Trump-George Bush ticket this November, and number 10 would be telling your significant other that yes, s/he does look fat in those pants/Speedos/Pokemon furry outfit, this idea is probably a 5, maybe even a 4.
I mean, read the whole item: telecom signals have already interfered with critical weather information. Why in the world would we make it easier for these jackanapes to fuck over a perfectly good and extremely valuable system?
Let the fuckers buy their own bandwith or develop the technology to work around the issues – leave weather info alone.