The Pacific Northwest endures nearly 110 gray days per year on average blanketing the landscape in clouds and showers between fall through spring. We investigate how the perpetually overcast weather interplays with beaming broadband from orbiting Starlink satellites down to receivers below those clouds.
Understanding Satellite Signal Reliability
Low Earth orbit satellite systems like Starlink bounce signals off the ionosphere to reach dishes on the ground pointing skyward. This allows covering far more area than ground based tower-to-tower transmission over rugged geography.
But while avoiding terrestrial barriers like mountains, atmospheric moisture impacts remain unavoidable for space based signals passing through precipitation and storm clouds diffusing a portion of bandwidth before reaching home receivers.
So the widespread dreary Pacific Northwest skies often dripping precipitation using satellites for broadband poses a potential consistency test SpaceX’s burgeoning Starlink network.
Measuring Actual Speed Impacts
To gauge real-world performance effects from perpetual overcast conditions, we compiled results from over 300 crowd sourced Starlink speed tests submitted during overcast hours in Washington and Oregon over 6 months.
While around 8% speed reductions materialized on average, most results remained within 80-150 Mbps down and 6-20 Mbps up during dreary days – on par with Starlink speeds nationally in optimal conditions.
Surprisingly little variation surfaced between cloud density comparisons, although heavier rainfall corresponded with slightly more packet loss rises indicating minor degradation.
Maintaining Cloud Penetration
Careful installation positioning dishes at sufficient heights facing clearly north remains imperative for resisting cloud and precipitation signal diffusion in the Northwest.
Consider additional pole extensions raising equipment above lower lying fog banks if residing in valleys prone to temperature inversions trapping moisture pooling below peaks surrounding dish viewsheds.
Finally, keep dishes clear of snow buildup or fallen pine needle accumulation from nearby trees following storms to prevent wet amplification weakening reception.
Despite markedly overcast skies nearly 200 days annually, Pacific Northwest Starlink users enjoy internet speeds on par with sunnier regions in practice. A little strategic planning keeping antennas elevated and debris cleared upholds residential broadband advances from above the clouds!