How Does Weather Affect Internet Service?


Do you have Wi-Fi problems on stormy days? Here’s the scoop on what kind of weather is most likely to cause an internet outage and what types of internet connections are the most susceptible

Stormy weather and internet

When the weather is wild and your Wi-Fi signal goes out, it’s easy to blame it on the weather. But can a cloudy day or a light rainstorm really interfere with your internet? Usually, the answer is no. But sometimes, it’s a hard yes. It just depends on what kind of internet you have. Satellite reception problems, in particular, are often correlated with bad weather.

Storm clouds over a small town

Is it your Wi-Fi or your internet connection?

Technically, bad weather doesn’t make your home Wi-Fi network less reliable (it’s not raining inside your house, right?). But it could make the internet signal delivered to your home weaker or cut out altogether, which will be reflected in bad Wi-Fi during a storm. 

If you’re out and about during a rainstorm, you might also notice that Wi-Fi hotspots around a city may weaken during storms.

In most cases, a rainy day or a soft winter snowfall will not affect your internet. Sometimes, slow internet on stormy days is caused by higher internet traffic than usual rather than the weather itself. Admit it—when the weather is bad, you don’t want to go running outside, play ball, or go clubbing. You want to stay home and cuddle up on the couch. You’re at home bingeing Schitt’s Creek, and so are most of your neighbors. That can cause serious internet slowing.

But there are times when weather can cause internet problems. Satellite internet, TV, and cell phone signals can go down during heavy rainstorms. Sometimes other atmospheric events can also cause a spotty internet connection. And, of course, if you’re in the middle of a severe weather event like a hurricane, a tornado, or a blizzard, weather could definitely affect your internet connection.

If your internet outage is caused by a storm that’s passing overhead, your internet might go out for a few minutes or for several hours. Let’s dive into when you can expect weather to affect your internet the most.

Extreme weather

An extreme weather event occurs when the weather is extraordinary enough that life and property are threatened. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, ice storms, and extreme windstorms are examples of extreme weather events that can knock out the internet in your area. During extreme weather, internet service can be interrupted for days.

Bad weather can cause internet outages in several ways: the weather event can interfere with the signal (such as heavy rain preventing a steady satellite signal from reaching your home), or it can cause infrastructure failures that cause internet outages (such as cable lines cracking during a prolonged freeze). In the case of satellite internet, bad weather can also damage your outdoor satellite equipment.

What kind of weather causes the most internet outages?

Rain is the bad boy here. Snow, fog, and hail don’t cause as much internet signal loss as rain.12 Why? It’s about density. Raindrops are up to eight times denser than snow and thus create more signal attenuation. Rain can also interfere with cell phone and satellite TV signals.

Not all rainstorms are alike. The bigger the raindrops are—and the faster they’re falling—the higher the chance of the storm causing an internet outage.

Weather and satellite internet

Satellite internet service is more likely to have connection issues during bad weather than other types of internet, since data has to travel through the air (rather than through wires buried underground). If you trace the path that data travels, you’ll see a line going from your home to a satellite thousands of miles away and then back again. During this journey, bad weather can weaken, block, or deflect the satellite signal.

Satellite signals are transmitted via radio waves, which travel best through open air but can get deflected or dispersed when they pass through water, buildings, and heavy foliage. This is why satellite signals weaken during weather conditions like rain, snow, and even dust storms. The water or dust particles in the air deflect and break apart the radio signal, resulting in a spotty or weak signal.

In addition, satellite internet equipment is mounted outdoors. Although highly weather resistant to most types of storms, satellite dishes can be damaged during extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes, which can damage the equipment or push it out of alignment.

How weather affects HughesNet and Viasat satellite internet service

Currently, there are two residential satellite internet providers to choose from in the United States: Viasat and HughesNet. Although both these satellite internet providers operate over Ka-band wavelengths, they differ somewhat on what they tell their customers to expect during bad weather.8, 9

  • HughesNet states that heavy cloud cover, storms, or even weather events at other locations (where your ground hub is located) can cause an internet outage.1
  • Viasat, on the other hand, states that internet service usually won’t be interrupted by cloud cover, light rain, or snow. Viasat does inform customers that severe storms can cause a temporary loss of service.2

Weather and other types of internet

Although satellite internet is the most likely type of internet to go down in bad weather, any type of internet can be affected by weather conditions. Cable, fiber, fixed-wireless, and DSL internet outages can occur anywhere during severe weather conditions or even due to construction.

But while satellite internet signal loss is more likely to occur due to rain or other weather conditions interfering with the signal itself, other types of internet outages usually happen because of equipment and infrastructure failure during storms.

Snow storms can freeze and crack cables, or lines can accidentally get cut during construction or landscaping. Thunderstorms can knock out power lines, phone lines, and servers. All of these issues can wipe out internet service.3,4,5 Luckily, these events are rare, but they still cause internet outages occasionally.

For instance, in Kansas City, Google Fiber service went out during the winter of 2019 for more than two weeks due to a snowstorm that dropped up to 12 inches of snow in two days.3

Additionally, at the beginning of the 2020 school year, the Google Fiber network in Austin, Texas, became overloaded and interrupted remote learning.4 And in Denver, 10,000 Xfinity customers were without internet for days.5 But the good news is that in all cases internet service was restored as soon as possible.

Does rain affect wireless internet?

Fixed-wireless internet is not as affected by weather as satellite internet because wireless operates on much lower frequencies than satellite.6

Weather and mobile phone signals

Like internet signals, mobile phone signals and Wi-Fi signals around a city can also weaken during bad weather. This is because cell phone signals are also transmitted via radio waves, and radio waves just aren’t as steady and reliable when they’re traveling through water in the atmosphere.

Raindrops have the biggest effect on cell phone signals since water in its liquid form is the densest (and most difficult for radio waves to travel through).12 But fog, snow, and even hot, humid weather can interfere or weaken your mobile phone signal. Trees and foliage are high in moisture content and can also block or weaken a mobile signal.

Quick solutions for weather-related internet problems

If it’s stormy outside and your internet is spotty, try the following:

  • Minimize the number of devices connected to the internet.
  • Move closer to your modem/router. Occasionally, storms can cause high humidity inside your house, which can weaken indoor Wi-Fi signals.
  • Power cycle your modem by turning it off for one minute and then turning it back on.

FAQ

Can weather affect Wi-Fi?

Yes, weather can affect Wi-Fi, particularly heavy rainstorms. Stormy weather can weaken free Wi-Fi hotspots around your city, and bad weather can also indirectly cause your home Wi-Fi network to go down.

In general, weather doesn’t affect the strength of the Wi-Fi signal from your router to your device (barring some slight interference during high humidity). But outside weather could affect the internet service that your Wi-Fi network relies on. For example, if your satellite internet signal goes out during a thunderstorm, your home Wi-Fi network will also fail.

Will I lose my internet connection during a power outage?

Yes, you will probably lose your internet during a power outage unless you have backup power. Power outages are the most common causes of internet outages during storms, followed by rain. Your laptop might be fully charged and have battery juice for hours, but most modems don’t have a battery backup. Plugging your computer directly into the modem with an Ethernet cable wouldn’t solve the problem either. If you have a generator or power bank, you could plug your router into that to maintain your signal.

Does satellite internet work in bad weather?

Satellite internet usually works in bad weather but not always. A lot of people experience signal loss during heavy rainstorms. Some types of weather can damage outdoor satellite equipment or move the dish out of position (such as hurricane force winds, tornadoes, hail storms, and heavy blizzards). Snow can also accumulate on your dish and disrupt service. You can brush snow carefully off your dish, but don’t try chipping away at ice because this can move the dish out of alignment.

What should I do if my satellite dish gets damaged during a storm?

If your satellite dish gets damaged during a storm, call your satellite internet service provider. Don’t try to fix the problem yourself. You can call HughesNet or call Viasat customer service, depending on who you get your satellite service from. Be aware that satellite equipment damage due to severe weather (such as hurricanes or tornadoes) is usually not covered under your internet company’s warranty.

Why does rain interfere with my satellite TV signal?

Rain can interfere with satellite TV signals because of the way the signal is transmitted. Satellite TV signals are broadcast through the air as radio waves in the Ku-band frequency, and like Ka-band (which delivers satellite internet signals), the Ku-band is susceptible to dispersion by water.7 You can find out more about satellite TV on our Best Satellite TV page.

How do I report an internet outage?

If you’re experiencing an internet outage, first contact your internet service provider by phone. You can also report an outage to DownDetector, which can give you additional information about how widespread the issue is.

Sources

  1. HughesNet Support, “How Does Weather Affect My HughesNet Internet Service?,” Accessed September 21, 2020.
  2. Viasat, “Is Viasat Affected by Weather?,” Accessed September 22, 2020.
  3. Schoon, Ben, “Kansas City Snowstorm Takes Down Google Fiber, Some Customers without Internet for Over Two Weeks,” January 2019. Accessed September 22, 2020.
  4. Knight, Drew, “Google Fiber Outages Reported Across Austin as Some Try to Teach Remotely,” September 2020. Accessed September 21, 2020.
  5. Sylte, Allison, 10,000 Metro Denver Comcast Customers without Service, Restoration Estimated for 10 p.m.,” April 2020. Accessed September 21, 2020.
  6. Fink, Jamie, “Introduction to Fixed Wireless — Debunking the Myths: Fact vs. Fiction,” January 2018. Accessed September 23, 2020.
  7. DISH, “Learn Why DISH Has 99% Signal Reliability,” Accessed September 23, 2020.
  8. Viasat, “More Bandwidth and Throughput to Satisfy Every Customer.” Accessed September 29, 2020.
  9. Alaska Satellite Internet, “Gen5 Residential.” Accessed September 29, 2020.
  10. Satellite Today, “Cover Story: Rain Degradation: Its Implications For Satellite Communication.” Accessed September 28, 2020.
  11. Advances in Science and Technology Research Journal, “Effects of Rain Attenuation on Satellite Communication Link.” Accessed September 29, 2020.
  12. 12. Satellite Airtime Billing, “Finding the Best Solution to Reduce Satellite Rain Fade (Rain Attenuation),” March 2020. Accessed September 29, 2020.
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