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Next-generation cellphone signals could interfere with weather forecasts, and monitoring smoke from wildfires to model nuclear winter

Science Podcast
Shawn Cahill

In recent months, telecommunications companies in the United States have purchased a new part of the spectrum for use in 5G cellphone networks. Weather forecasters are concerned that these powerful signals could swamp out weaker signals from water vapor—which are in a nearby band and important for weather prediction. Freelance science writer Gabriel Popkin joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about the possible impact of cellphone signals on weather forecasting and some suggested regulations.

In other weather news this week, Sarah talks with Pengfei Yu, a professor at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, about his group’s work using a huge smoke plume from the 2017 wildfires in western Canada as a model for smoke from nuclear bombs. They found the wildfire smoke lofted itself 23 kilometers into the stratosphere, spread across the Northern Hemisphere, and took 8 months to dissipate, which line up with models of nuclear winter and suggests these fires can help predict the results of a nuclear war.

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

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About the Science Podcast


Sarah Crespi

Sarah Crespi is the Senior Multimedia Producer at Science and host of the Science Magazine Podcast.

Gabriel Popkin

Gabriel Popkin is a journalist based in Mount Rainier, Maryland.