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Garmin says about inReach that to have a two-way satellite communication "you need to have a clear view of the sky".

And what about cloud cover?.. Say it's winter and 100% overcast with angry cumulus clouds 100% of the time. How much interference / hindrance would that give?

NOTE Maybe not everyone knows what's an inReach is. It is NOT a GPS navigational device per se, it is a two-way satellite communicator that uses the Iridium network.

  • None: please see this answer on Stackoverflow. – Weather Vane Aug 21 at 16:14
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    Thanks @WeatherVane. However, passively receiving a GPS signal (from a powerful satellite) and actively communicating with the Iridium network (from a low-power handheld device) are not exactly the same use cases :) – Alexander Aug 21 at 16:48
  • Please add that clarification into the question. – Weather Vane Aug 21 at 16:51
  • Yep, already done :) – Alexander Aug 21 at 16:53
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    It would depend upon how much moisture is in the clouds and how thick they are. It is similar to your satellite TV receiver having poorer reception during storms. However, it would not be affected as much as TV because it is not sending a continuous stream of data (versus your tiny message) and it can afford to wait a while before each retry. I don't recall if it said what its timeout was but I know it will attempt for at least a couple minutes. – topshot Aug 21 at 19:54
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Iridium uses radio frequencies around 1.6 GHz or 18.75cm wavelength.

Atmospheric absorption at these frequencies is very low:

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Clouds contain water droplets, though. So, let's have a look at rain attenuation:

enter image description here

...no problem either at 1.6GHz. So your answer is: overcast weather should be absolutely fine. The designers wouldn't have picked a frequency that would be heavily absorbed by clouds... that would be bad for business.

Now, what happens at the bottom of a narrow canyon (or in a street with tall buildings)?...

enter image description here

Radio waves bend around corners due to diffraction. However... unlike a car, diffraction works best on sharp corners, or obstacles which have at least one dimension that is close to, or smaller than the wavelength (here, 16cm). So, if there is a telephone pole between you and the satellite, waves will go around it. But if it is a building, they won't. You'll get rather low diffraction around large natural obstacles, which in practice means if you're at the bottom of a narrow canyon or street and the satellite is hidden behind the canyon walls, or behind a building, without direct sight, then reception won't work.

Likewise, Charlie mentions a reflective tarp, if that's conductive it will reflect the signal, so if you stand below it, it won't work. Roughly speaking, anything conductive either solid or with holes smaller than the wavelength will block/reflect the signal (for example, wire fence, rebar, steel roof, metal window blinds, etc). If it is between you and the satellite, expect problems.

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    This is the perfect answer, from the theoretical and practical standpoints. – Gabriel C. Aug 23 at 13:09
  • @GabrielC.Thanks! – peufeu Aug 23 at 17:39
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    That is indeed a perfect answer peufeu, thanks :) – Alexander Aug 27 at 16:50
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I have an inReach and have used it in all sorts of conditions and terrain. Overcast weather is not a problem but a reflective tarp or deep canyons can be.

If a message fails to get through the device will flash red and that means you need a better position.

Normally it’s not a problem.

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