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Cellphone signals can indicate rainfall

Feb. 5, 2013 at 8:24 PM

DE BILT, Netherlands, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Researchers in the Netherlands say they've used cellphone towers and their signals to create a rainfall map for the country.

Cellular towers are linked together by microwaves, and when it rains the signal between towers can be weakened as the microwaves are reflected off raindrops, they said.

Scientists at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute came up with an algorithm that measures the difference between the expected signal strength and weaker signals received when raindrops interfere with the microwaves.

They recorded the signal strength between 2,400 cell towers every 15 minutes, allowing them to create a snapshot of rainfall across the entire country, NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.

Readings derived from the cellular data tended to agree with those from the traditional combination of rain gauges and radar, the researchers said, and could be useful for improving flood forecasts and providing real-time rainfall monitoring in poorer countries where conventional meteorological equipment is unavailable but mobile phones are commonplace.

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