How Meteorological Activity Affects Satellites
September 30, 2013

Researchers Explore How Meteorological Conditions Affect Satellite Signals

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Researchers will be spending two years trying to find out how much satellite signals are affected by rain, atmospheric pressure and other meteorological conditions.

A team of scientists plan to spend the next couple of years gathering meteorological data in order to update currently available statistical information. Companies building satellite systems and ground receiving stations will be particularly interested in this data.

Researchers say that broadband communication at high latitudes will become more important over the next several years as the shipping and oil industries amp up their activities in this region. Satellites sometimes provide the only means of communication at these latitudes because the facilities are located outside the coverage of ground-based communication systems.

"The project will run for a two-year period, and the five measuring stations will be located at Isfjord Radio in Svalbard, Vadsø, Røst, Eggemoen and Nittedal", explained Jan Erik Håkegård at SINTEF ICT in a statement.

The team will be measuring rain intensity as well as humidity and atmospheric pressure. They will be able to use this data to predict when satellite signals will be too poor to use across different parts of the Nordic region.

Satellite signals are affected by wind and weather because they sit too low in the sky for receivers located at high latitudes. Signals from these orbiting objects have to get through a greater thickness of atmosphere in order to provide communications.

"For example, rain intensity over the Norwegian coast is less than the previous rainfall map would indicate. And the models that show the relation between weather conditions and attenuated signals have weaknesses, particularly when the satellites have a low position in the sky", Håkegård says. "But will more information about weather conditions result in better systems? Yes, because the systems can be designed differently."

He said there are regions for which it should theoretically be possible to provide satellite communication, but the service quality experienced by these users is too poor for it.

"It is here that companies must try to come up with systems providing the best performance that is physically possible, and in this way narrow the gap. The bigger the increase in activity in the Nordic regions, the more important it will be to achieve this," said Håkegård.