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Using cell phone towers to detect the precursors of fog

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Prof. H. Oliver Gao (right) and Dr. Noam David (left) and an example of a cell phone tower

PostDoc Noam David and Prof. H. Oliver Gao are the first to reveal novel potential in a paper recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research—Atmospheres.

Their research focused on fog and investigated the connection between temperature inversions (abnormal temperature behavior), the creation of fog, and the effects these conditions have on cell phone tower signals. Analyzing data from several events, the team proved that it is possible to receive early warning of fog that is about to occur approximately half an hour/hour prior to the event. On one hand the researchers knew that temperature inversions are a precursor condition for the creation of fog, and on the other, the gradients created in the atmospheric refractivity index as elevation increases, under these conditions, affect cell phone tower signals. Thus, it is possible to utilize this principle to detect the dangerous phenomenon before it occurs. Further, this novel concept will allow observations of temperature inversions in the boundary layer (the lower atmosphere) to be carried out, in ways that were not possible until now, and thus may potentially lead to further understanding of the processes related to the phenomenon.

Their novel approach presents ground breaking research in a field where many studies across the globe have been conducted during the past decade, and yet, the team's discovery is first of its kind.

Reference:
David, N. and Gao, H. O.: The potential of existing cellular networks for detecting the precursors of fog, Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, doi: 10.1002/2017JD027360, 2017

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