Meteorologists fear loss of radio frequencies
Meteorologists are competing with other users for the limited number of radio frequencies.
September 23, 1999
Web posted at: 8:02 a.m. EDT (1202 GMT)
New technologies from cellular phones to global positioning systems are grabbing up limited radio frequencies threatening the future transmission of important weather data, according to the American Meteorological Society.
"The AMS is an industry association speaking on behalf of the meteorological community. If a few frequencies are lost it is not a big deal. Critical weather data will still be transmitted. The problem is trend. Should more and more frequencies be reassigned someday the meteorological data will not be transmitted, thereby affecting the forecasting process," said Stephanie Kentizer, spokesperson for the AMS.
Communication of most meteorological information depends heavily on the radio spectrum. Radio signals are used for weather radar, radiosondes, weather satellites, wind profiling and many other methods of gathering weather-related information. They are also used to distribute weather information to the public.
These instruments use radio frequencies to deliver data back to Earth from their respective position in the atmosphere.
Within the radio spectrum, certain frequencies, such as those currently assigned for meteorological data, are coveted because they have better transmission characteristics and so are more reliable than others. Meteorological bands are also in high demand because they are assigned globally, for use worldwide. Some of the primary meteorological bands are 137-138 MHz, 400.15-406 MHz, 1670-1710 MHz, and 2700-3000 MHz.
"With a finite number of frequencies available, the growing communications giants have made the radio frequency spectrum an extremely valuable commodity," said George Frederick, AMS president. "Someone is going to lose, and we cannot afford to let it be the meteorological community. Protection of these signals is in the interest of public safety and security and is required to improve the measurements used for meteorological operations and research."
The cellular phone is just one new technology gaining popularity around the world that is battling for its share of scarce radio frequencies.
Cellular phones are gaining popularity around the world and the international organization responsible for allocating radio frequencies, the International Telecommunications Union, is under pressure from private industries to reassign frequencies traditionally dedicated for weather instruments to commercial use, according to the AMS. But cell phones are not the only threat.
Private industry and military are also dependent on the radio spectrum for global positioning systems and other emerging technologies.
"This is an international dilemma since many of the frequencies being used for meteorological data transmission are global," said Kenitzer. "We can't blame any one person or group. Rather the growth of new industries that are using radio frequencies is the problem. The international community must find a way to accommodate all the users on the spectrum."
The ITU, a part of the United Nations, coordinates global telecommunication networks and services and meets every few years to review the use of radio frequencies around the world and reassign any frequencies as appropriate. The next meeting, called a World Radiocommunications Conference, will be held in 2000.
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission assigns radio frequencies for the private industry. The National Telecommunication Information Administration (NTIA), an agency within the Department of Commerce, regulates the use of the radio spectrum by federal agencies.
"We are extremely concerned about the potential loss of weather-related radio frequencies and are working hard with the FCC, the NTIA and the ITU to protect the frequencies needed for meteorological operations and research," said Frederick. "Our best weapon right now is educating the decision makers on how important these frequencies are to every day weather forecasting."
The society is urging its more than 12,000 national and international members to register their weather satellite receivers with appropriate national channels. Registering the receiver is not legally required in some countries, but it lets the national and international agencies know that the frequency is being used at a particular location for meteorological purposes and therefore should be protected.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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