National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Stormy Weather in the Northwest; Fire Weather Threat Redeveloping in Southern California this Weekend

An active fall storm pattern in the Pacific Northwest is bringing heavy rain and high elevation snow to the region which will persist through this weekend. Strong winds associated with this system will bring a renewed period of critical fire weather to southern California later this weekend into next week. Read More >

     
  What Is SKYWARN?        
     
 
 

SKYWARN LogoThe SKYWARN spotter program is a nationwide network of volunteers trained by the National Weather Service that provide us with timely and accurate severe weather reports. Reports arrive at our office via volunteer citizens with access to a phone or the Internet, operators of citizen band radio, or licensed Operators of Amateur Radio. These reports, combined with modern NWS technology, are used to determine what the storms will do next and to inform commmunities of the proper actions to take as severe weather threatens through warnings, statements, and short-term forecasts to the public.

Despite the elaborate radar and forecasting equipment at the National Weather Service, we are only able to determine the potential for severe weather. We rely on reports from the public and law enforcement personnel. The National Weather Service needs real-time reports of hail size, wind damage, flash flooding, heavy rain, and tornado development, in order to effectively warn the public. However, accurate and reliable information from the general public is difficult to obtain. The NWS has found that only regular training of weather spotters through programs improves the quality of information.

When hazardous weather occurs such as severe thunderstorms, floods, tornadoes, snow and ice storms, our 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, six inches of snow are on the ground, a thunderstorm is producing hail, or trees have been blown down. Reports arrive at our office via volunteer citizens. The reports are combined with radar and satellite data to determine what the storms will do next and are used to send out statements, warnings and short-term forecasts to the public.

Anyone interested in getting involved in SKYWARN need to satisfy only a small criteria. You must be at least 16 years old, be able to observe weather (though no instruments are required), and have access to a telephone to call in reports, or be an amateur radio operator.

You must take our SKYWARN class which is a 3-hour seminar that teaches you the basics of how SKYWARN operates, how to spot severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, what to report, how to report, and when. After the class, you are given a SKYWARN ID and certificate which confirms your training, and written instructions of what to report and how. There is no cost for the class, which is held at various locations throughout our region.

Questions? Email Ryan Sandler.

 
     
  Spotter Information         
     
 
 

Recent Spotter Reports
Spotter Guide to Gathering Data
Weather Spotter Report Criteria by County

 
     
  SKYWARN Links         
     
 
  National SKYWARN homepage
Severe Weather Safety Guide
Spotter Glossary
Storm Spotter's Guide
Ham Radio SKYWARN Group