Become a Certified SKYWARN Spotter
Each spring, thousands and thousands of hams are trained by regional National Weather Service staffers in an effort to utilize hams and other volunteers in the field to observe hazardous weather conditions. In some areas, Skywarn Storm Spotters uses ham radio networks and repeaters to relay essential weather observations straight to NWS meteorologists as an extension of their eyes and ears.
What is Skywarn?
- Skywarn is a national network of volunteer severe weather spotters.
- Skywarn spotters are trained by local National Weather Service Forecast Offices on how to spot severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail and flooding. In some parts of the country, spotters also report snowfall and ice accumulation.
- In most years, thunderstorms, tornadoes and lightning cause hundreds of injuries and deaths and billions in property and crop damages. To obtain critical weather information, the National Weather Service (NWS) established SKYWARN® with partner organizations. SKYWARN® is a volunteer program with between 350,000 and 400,000 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 focus is reporting on severe local thunderstorms. In an average year, the United States experiences more than 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes.
- 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 form the nation’s first line of defense against severe weather. There can be no finer reward than to know that your efforts have given your family and neighbors the precious gift of time–minutes that can help save lives.
Who is eligible and how do I get started?
NWS encourages anyone with an interest in public service 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 and nursing homes or who have a responsibility for protecting others are encouraged to become a spotter.
Ready to learn more? Find a class in your area. Training is free and typically lasts about 2 hours. You’ll learn:
- Basics of thunderstorm development
- Fundamentals of storm structure
- Identifying potential severe weather features
- Information to report
- How to report information
- Basic severe weather safety
Need help with your Spotter Number or other local information such as a missing class schedule?
- If you need help finding your spotter number or a class schedule, contact your local Warning Coordination Meteorologist. He or she can help you get, find or replace your spotter information and let you know about upcoming classes. Classes typically are held in an office’s relatively slow season. Classes are NOT typically offered all year. Schedules vary from office to office.
Looking for our online program? You also can also take our free online spotter program. Some offices also ask that you take a local class to learn about weather unique to your area.