The effects of severe weather are felt every year by many Americans. To obtain critical weather information, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, established SKYWARN with partner organizations. SKYWARN is a volunteer program with nearly 290,000 trained severe weather spotters. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.
Although SKYWARN spotters provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the main responsibility of a SKYWARN spotter is to identify and describe severe local storms. In the average year, 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes occur across the United States. These events threatened lives and property.
Since the program started in the 1970s, the information provided by SKYWARN spotters, coupled with Doppler radar technology, improved satellite and other data, has enabled NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods.
SKYWARN storm spotters are part of the ranks of citizens who form the Nation's first line of defense against severe weather. There can be no finer reward than to know that their efforts have given communities the precious gift of time-seconds and minutes that can help save lives.
NWS encourages anyone with an interest in public service and access to communication, such HAM radio, to join the SKYWARN program. Volunteers include police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility workers and other concerned private citizens. Individuals affiliated with hospitals, schools, churches, nursing homes or who have a responsibility for protecting others are also encouraged to become a spotter.
You'll review a variety of topics while training to be a spotter:
Basic severe weather safety
Basics of thunderstorm development
Fundamentals of storm structure
How to report information
Identifying potential severe weather features
Information to report