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Become A "Storm Spotter" Volunteer Observer

The National Weather Service (NWS), in cooperation with other organizations, has established the Skywarn local severe weather spotting network. The program is an effort to save lives and property during severe weather emergencies. All you need to do to become a member of the Skywarn storm spotters volunteer network is an interest in watching the sky and a dedication to helping save lives.

Doppler radar, called NEXRAD (NEXt generation RADar), was designed to improve detection of severe storms so that the NWS can issue more accurate and timely warnings to the public. The national Skywarn network is an integral part of this detection and warning process. NEXRAD will help locate and track potentially severe and dangerous storms, but it is Skywarn storm spotters that report what the storm is actually doing (trees blown down, a tornado on the ground, flood waters washing out a bridge, a dangerous glaze of ice on roads and wires). A Skywarn spotter is trained to spot tornadoes, funnel clouds, and severe thunderstorms. They are told how to report hail, strong winds, heavy rain, floods, and snow. Forecasters combine home weather station information from Skywarn storm spotters with that of radar, satellite and other tools. This information is then used to provide appropriate warnings for communities in the path of the storm and to keep people informed about what is happening and what steps they may need to take to protect themselves.

Amateur radio operators (Hams) are ideally equipped to contribute to the Skywarn program. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), a public service organization of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) consists of licensed radio amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty when disaster strikes or for public events.

Non-amateur radio licensed owners of personal weather stations can also take part by attending Skywarn spotter training and using APRS weather stations with Skywarn software to transmit data about severe weather conditions to their local National Weather Service forecast office.

All content on the WeatherShack Education Center is Copyright 2002-2020 This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of For permission, please contact [email protected].

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