|Spend the time||outdoors|
|Appropriate for kids||no|
Cell phone, vehicle, and weather-appropriate clothing may be required depending on level of activity.
|Help forecasters determine what severe storms will do next|
|Report real-time weather data for "ground-truth" forecasts.|
SKYWARN is a national network of volunteer severe weather spotters. The 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.
During hazardous weather, such as severe thunderstorms, floods, tornadoes, snow and ice storms, SKYWARN volunteers report what is happening at their location. They are asked to report whenever certain criteria are met such as when one inch of rain has fallen, four inches of snow is on the ground, a thunderstorm is producing hail, or trees have been blown down.
Reports arrive at the forecaster's office via the telephone, fax, Internet, and amateur radio. The reports are combined with radar and satellite data to determine what the storms will do next. Spotters provide the "ground-truth" to forecasters. Radar may tell us that heavy snow is falling, but it can not tell us how much snow is on the ground or if rain is mixing with the snow. Spotters do. The reports are used by forecasters to send out public statements, warnings and advisories, and short-term forecasts.
Two-thirds of SKYWARN volunteers are licensed amateur radio operators. Amateur radio plays a big role in the SKYWARN program. During severe weather, amateur radio volunteers man a radio station at our office. They talk to our spotters in the particular area that a storm is hitting and request information needed by the forecasters such as hail size or rainfall accumulation. Large storms such as hurricanes can knock out phone service. SKYWARN amateur radio volunteers help us when there are communications outages so that we can continue to receive weather reports and feed warnings and other critical information out to communities.
SKYWARN volunteers are people who either have a strong interest in weather or are public service oriented. This includes amateur radio operators, REACT members, or emergency response personnel. Our spotters are all ages beginning as young as 14 and range well into retirement age. We have farmers, pilots, engineers, housewives, lawyers, television cameramen, teachers, students, firemen, and more. Our volunteers are truly diverse but with a common interest in weather and a strong desire to help their community.