Monday, March 26, 2012

SKYWARN, the vital groundtruth

by Robert Hawkins, KI4HEE
Tornado descending from a thunderstorm over New Mexico.
Springtime. While always a welcome change to warmer weather, the changing weather patterns often create unstable conditions that sometimes become catastrophic. It's the mission of the National Weather Service to serve the public with the most accurate weather monitoring information available, and has become technically able to give weather warnings down to the neighborhood level. But while the most sophisticated Doppler Radar, and the fastest Super Computers do spot trouble from the skies, it's the "eyeballs" on the ground, the eyewitness reports that the National Weather Service relies on, that makes sure their super-keen hardware is giving them accurate data.

The NWS SKYWARN program is the front line resource for accurate weather reporting. Reports from trained weather spotters in and out of the SKYWARN program is the "ground truth" the weather forecasters rely on.

It's not difficult to become a SKYWARN spotter, anybody can become one. But first, you need to learn just what the NWS is looking for, and how to report it accurately. National Weather Service Offices nation-wide schedule informal classes & there are online presentations, like here, from the Wilmington office of the NWS, that teaches you the basics.


Many Hams are involved in SKYWARN. The nature of instantly coordinating a spotters network in response to a local weather event is a skill that comes easily to ham radio. You too can participate, and in doing so, offer the most important tool in the National Weather Services Forecast & Reporting Arsenal.

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