SKYWARN is a program of the United States' National Weather Service (NWS). Its mission is to collect reports of localized severe weather. These reports are used to aid forecasters in issuing and verifying severe weather watches and warnings and to improve the forecasting and warning processes and the tools used to collect meteorological data. It consists of a network of severe storm spotters that observe weather conditions and make reports of severe weather to their local NWS offices. These spotters are trained by personnel from the local NWS offices each spring in advance of the coming severe weather season.
Where severe storms are possible, storm spotting groups such as SKYWARN in the United States coordinate amateur radio operators and localized spotters to keep track of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Reports from spotters and chasers are given to the National Weather Service so that they have the information to warn the general public. Spotting provides ground information and conditions locally that the National Weather Service could not otherwise be aware of. Spotters also give reports during winter storms, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires.
Other countries have similar programs, such as the Canadian spotting program Canwarn, the SkyWarn UK and the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO) programs in the United Kingdom, and Skywarn Europe for several European countries.
The NWS sponsors Skywarn training sessions in the US. These sessions usually occupy two hours and focus on hazard identification and communication along with spotter strategies and safety. NWS recommends attendance at refresher courses every two years.
SKYWARN has long been associated with amateur radio. Many NWS offices maintain an amateur radio station that is manned by amateur radio operators during times of severe weather. This allows licensed amateur radio spotters to transmit their severe weather reports directly to the NWS and receive up-to-date severe weather updates even if regular communications are disrupted or overloaded by the weather emergency.
Participation in SKYWARN does not require an amateur radio license; more than half of all SKYWARN spotters are not licensed amateur radio operators. The NWS encourages anyone with an interest in public service and access to some method of communication, such as amateur radio, telephone, the Internet, etc 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 spotters. Those without radio communication capability make their reports via telephone or the Internet when those are still functioning.
Full article ▸