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6.7 Electromagnetic Frequency Spectrum: It¢s the Limited Resource that Fuels our Forecasts

Friday, 23 June 2017: 11:45 AM
Salon III (InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza)
Renee A. Leduc Clarke, Narayan Strategy, Washington, DC; and M. Nelson and D. G. Lubar

Very few broadcast viewers understand the robust and redundant weather infrastructure that exists behind the graphic. There are multiple infrastructures required to produce brief action oriented messages on the crawler track across the bottom of the screen, which enables today’s broadcast professional to quickly warn of flood waters and life-threatening severe weather events, and more detailed meteorological data provided before airtime to broadcast meteorologists, who then develop a local forecast.

A common element behind all of these communications is electromagnetic radio spectrum. The complex network that ensures science data arrives from space - from weather radars and radiosondes to surface observations - all require the invisible and finite electromagnetic radio spectrum to convey data.

The demand for wireless broadband to supply our smart phones, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and other technology data needs is ever increasing. However, care must be taken when proposing new uses for that spectrum, even in the name of advancing communications technologies, to avoid disarming current capabilities that provide for the safety of life and property.

This presentation will address several cases where weather infrastructure, which relies on unencumbered radio spectrum, enables broadcasters to reach wide audiences, quickly, with forecasts, warnings and advisories that originate from federal government sources. Some examples of alerts that rely on spectrum include:

  • flood warnings and reports of when water levels will recede;
  • evacuation orders in the advance of landfall for tropical cyclones; and
  • advanced notice of tornado risk.

The examples will contrast public forecasts applicable to a large audience versus specialized products focused upon a specific industry segment or microclimate. Additionally, new features from the next-generation NOAA weather satellites, such as GOES-16, may yield improvements particularly to severe thunderstorm forecasting, but requires this frequency spectrum to not be encumbered or interfered with by other technologies. It is crucial these advances be made available for use by the public and private weather enterprise.

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