National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

 

How to provide weather data to the National Weather Service

While the National Weather Service has a wide variety of automated systems, both in situ and remote, which are used to detect various weather phenomena, our most valuable resource in the field is ordinary citizens. The information provided by ordinary citizens to the National Weather Service is absolutely vital to our ability to provide timely weather warnings and to verify those warnings. There are four primary programs in which anyone can provide valuable weather data to us, which are all listed below.

 

Skywarn Spotter Program

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network

Program overview: The Skywarn program is the National Weather Service's severe weather spotter program. Observers in this program report significant weather such as severe storms, heavy snow, flooding or storm damage to the local National Weather Service. This data is then distributed to the public and is the basis for issuing and verifying severe weather warnings.

More information on the Skywarn program can be found HERE.

Equipment needed for this program: Your eyes and ears, telephone or internet access.

How to start observing: First, attend a spotter training class, either in person or on the internet. In-person classes in our region are usually held in the Spring; the schedule will be headlined on our home page. An internet class is also available HERE. After the class, you will be provided with an ID card with information about contacting the NWS to provide severe weather reports. Your contact information will also be requested so that meteorologists can contact you about possible severe weather if it is believed there may have been some in your vicinity. After that, just keep an eye to the sky!

Program overview: CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, is a nationwide volunteer observing program funded by many organizations, including the National Weather Service. Observers in this program measure rain, snow and hail, and report it on the CoCoRaHS website. The data is then distributed to the public directly and to many different partners, including the National Weather Service. The data provided helps to verify flood and winter storm warnings and assists with estimating local water supplies.

Much more information can be found on the main CoCoRaHS website HERE.

Equipment needed for this program: 4 inch rain gauge, snow board, 1/10th inch snow ruler, internet access.

How to start observing: First, purchase a 4-inch rain gauge and 1/10th inch snow ruler from the vendor listed on the CoCoRaHS website. These usually total less than $50. Next, obtain a piece of plywood (ideally 2 feet by 2 feet) and paint it white; this will serve as your snow board. Next, install your rain gauge and place your snow board in a suitable location as described in the "Getting Started" training slides on the CoCoRaHS website; you may need to obtain a wood post (ideally 4x4) in order to install your rain gauge properly. Next, review the remainder of the "Getting Started" training slides and the "Snow In Depth" training slides on the CoCoRaHS website. Next, sign up for your own CoCoRaHS ID# on the CoCoRaHS website. Finally, wait for some rain or snow!

Citizen Weather Observer Program

Cooperative Observer Program

Program overview: CWOP, the Citizen Weather Observer Program, is a nation-wide observing program which allows persons with personal electronic weather stations to share their station's data with the National Weather Service. Data from weather stations on CWOP can be also be viewed by the public on various websites which display a wide variety of local weather stations, such as MesoWest. The data provided helps to verify warnings about high winds, heavy rain, extreme heat and severe cold.

If you are interested in participating in the Citizen Weather Observer Program, visit the official CWOP website HERE.

The National Weather Service office in El Paso, Texas also has a very detailed page on CWOP, which can be found HERE.

Equipment needed for this program: Electronic personal weather station, high-speed internet access.

How to start observing: First, purchase a personal electronic weather station. A variety of vendors can be found on the internet, with purchase prices ranging from $100 to over $700, not including the extra hardware and/or software that many stations require in order to connect ot CWOP. Some guidelines for purchasing home weather stations can be found on the El Paso NWS office's page HERE. Next, select a location for your weather station based on the criteria also described on the El Paso NWS's web page . Install your station at the selected location. Next, sign-up for a CWOP ID# HERE. Next, following the instructions in your station's users manual, connect your station to the internet and set it to begin transmitting data to CWOP under your ID#. Finally, send an e-mail to cwop-support@noaa.gov once your station is transmitting data to CWOP, and he will officially register your station in the CWOP database.

Program overview: COOP, the National Weather Service's Cooperative Observer Program, is the oldest volunteer observer program run by the National Weather Service. It forms the backbone of the nation's climate network. In this program, observers diligently record observations on a daily basis, consisting of precipitation, snowfall, high and low temperatures, as well as evaporation and soil temperatures at some sites. Data is sent by way of the internet or telephone to the local National Weather Service office. Their data is distributed to the public by way of NWS products and is also archived at the National Climatic Data Center. Because of limited funding, participation in the COOP program is strictly on a needs basis as determined by the National Weather Service.

If you would like to learn more about the COOP program, visit the official COOP website HERE.

Equipment needed for this program: Dilligence and reliability, internet or telephone access.

How to start observing: Contact the local National Weather Service Representative (NWSREP) for your area to communicate your interest in the program. The NWSREP will determine if there is local need for a station. Contact information for NWSREPs all across the country can be found HERE. If the NWSREP identifies a need for a new station, they will arrange to visit your home in order to install equipment, explain how to use it, and ensure you are signed up to report the observations. Observers in this program are expected to take observations every day, and to find someone to take the observations for them if they themselves are unavailable for any reason. Since the actual observing equipment in this program is all owned by the NWS, observers will need to contact the NWSREP if unscheduled maintenance or repairs are required.