5G could wreck weather forecasts, scientists warn

Weather forecasters around the world are warning that new 5G phone networks could affect their predictions and put lives at stake.

The concerns raised by meteorologists in Europe and the US revolve around the new networks' reliance on radio frequencies which clash with those already in use by forecasters.

As a result, they warn that major storms could hit countries with no or limited warning, even causing loss of life.

"The way 5G is being introduced could seriously compromise our ability to forecast major storms," Tony McNally of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading told The Guardian. "In the end it could make the difference between life and death. We are very concerned about this."

Satellites revolving around the Earth use radio frequencies to gather information on water vapour, rain, snow, cloud cover and ice content. Forecasters then use this information to predict how major weather systems will develop.

Some proposed 5G networks are expected to use the same frequency as water vapour to transmit data, meaning forecasters would find it impossible to tell the difference between rain and emojis.

"We would not be able to tell the difference and so would have to discard that data," added Niels Bormann, also of the Reading weather centre. "That would compromise our ability to make accurate forecasts."

In the US, government agencies have already started auctioning off frequencies close to that of water vapour, rain, snow, atmospheric temperature, clouds and ice.

"The more we lose, the greater the impact will be," US meteorologist Jordan Gerth, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in the current issue of Nature. "This is a global problem."

In New Zealand, the frequencies in question have not yet been auctioned off and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) says it is closely monitoring research around the effects of their use in 5G.

"There are international studies being conducted to determine the appropriate technical measures to protect these weather satellites from the adjacent 5G use," a spokesperson from MBIE told Newshub.

MBIE told Newshub they will be observing discussions on the topic at the World Radiocommunication Conference in October and November.

New Zealand weather forecasters have been contacted by Newshub for comment.

5G is not expected to be implemented in New Zealand until at least 2020.