The National Weather Service (NWS) is tasked with the difficult job of warning the public of
dangerous weather. Many tools are used to accomplish this. Among them are doppler radar,
satellites, lightning detection networks, and surface observations. While these are all useful, they have limitations. Based on current knowledge and technology, it is impossible for the NWS to detect every severe weather event and provide early warning, although our ability has vastly improved over the past 10 to 15 years.
To try and fill the gaps between the technology and to provide better warnings, the NWS uses trained volunteers who agree to become the "eyes and ears" of the NWS. Weather spotters provide real-time observations of severe weather events, such as tornadoes, damaging winds, hail, flooding, and winter weather. These reports assist NWS meteorologist in making warning decisions. Spotters help the NWS fulfill its mission of protecting life and property, and also help in providing the citizens of their communities with life saving information!
Severe Storm Spotter Training gives an individual the basic tools you need to be a severe
weather spotter. Starting with a blue sky, individuals are taught the basics of thunderstorm
development, storm structure, what features to look for and where to find them. What and how to report information and basic severe weather safety are also covered. The class is a multi-media
presentation using still pictures and video. The class typically takes from 2 to 2 1/2 hours, but
adjustments can be made for special circumstances.
There is only one class that is needed and offered by the National Weather Service to become a volunteer storm spotter. That class is the Severe Storm Spotter Training Class. Everything a person needs to become a spotter is in the class. An Advanced Spotter Training Class was developed in the early 1990's. However due to time and logistical problems, most National Weather Service (NWS) offices no longer offer this class. The spotter training class offered by the NWS St. Louis is a combination of the two, so it covers all the concepts a spotter needs to know. To be listed in the NWS St. Louis Storm Spotter database, you must attend a class taught by NWS personnel.
Spotter Class Schedule
Download the Weather Spotter's Field Guide
Submit spotter reports via "Submit Storm Report" page.
SKYWARN is not an exclusive club. While people involved in public service and who have good
communication capabilities (radio, etc.) are encouraged to become spotters, everyone can benefit. Some examples include police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility workers, and amateur radio operators. People who are involved with hospitals, schools, churches and nursing homes, who have a responsibility for others, are also encouraged to attend.
If you are just curious about severe weather and want to learn more, a spotter class may be for you. The class is a great educational experience for everyone. You do not have to be a storm spotter. You can attend the class to learn how to better protect yourself and those you are responsible for.
There is no charge for the class. All you need to do is arrange for a time and place and have an