1. What is SKYWARN?
SKYWARN, founded in the early 1970's is made up of a group of trained, dedicated amateur weather enthusiast who work in conjunction with the National Weather Service by observing and reporting adverse weather conditions to promote public safety and minimize property damage. In the advent of Doppler Radar, and other technologies, the art and science of weather forecasting has made great strides, but even with all the technology, the National Weather Service still is in need of 'ground truth' observers. It is through training that the NWS teaches interested volunteers to be safe, effective and accurate weather spotters who provide them with the needed ground truths.
2. Who can qualify for the SKYWARN program?
Anyone over the age of 16 with an interest in weather and public service qualifies for SKYWARN Spotter Training. Once trained, you are a qualified SKYWARN Spotter. Currently, we have approximately 2000 spotters of all ages and walks of life.
3. How does SKYWARN work?
SKYWARN, generally speaking, is placed on stand-by when a severe weather watch is posted by the National Weather Service. Once that watch is upgraded to a warning, SKYWARN becomes activated and spotters are asked to make severe weather observations. After making an observation that is reportable, there are several ways to relay the information to the National Weather Forecast Office which include: telephone, amateur radio, citizens band radio and public safety radio, and *APRS*. The best way to learn the specifics of your county's reporting protocol is to contact your county coordinator
4. Do you have to be a member of the amateur radio service to be a SKYWARN spotter?
Simply answered, no. Anyone over 16 with an interest can train as a spotter. It should be noted, however, that the NWS may utilize the SKYWARN Amateur Radio operators to maintain close coordination with the *Red Cross* and Emergency Management through both the Amateur Radio Civil Emergency Services (ARES) and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES). Additionally, SKYWARN is formally acknowledged in a Memorandum of Understanding (MAU) between the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the *National Red Cross* and the National Weather Service. This agreement states that the ARRL will encourage local volunteers operating under ARES to provide spotters services and red cross communications as requested by either the NWS during times of severe weather, and the National Red Cross while administering disaster relief efforts. A copy of the Memorandum may be obtained by contacting the *ARRL, publications department*.
5. How do I become a SKYWARN spotter?
You must be at least 16 years old, be able to observe weather (though no instruments are required), and have access to a telephone or be an amateur radio operator so you can relay your reports. You also must take a SKYWARN class which is a free, informative, fun filled 3-hour seminar that teaches you the basics of how SKYWARN operates, how to spot and report severe weather. After completing the class, you will be mailed a SKYWARN Identification number, a certificate of completion and written review of what to report and how. All SKYWARN Spotter Training Courses are free and are held in various sites through the 34 county Mount Holly Forecast Coverage Area within most of New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, Eastern Maryland and Delaware.
6. What happens to my report once it is relayed to NWS?
Some of the reports are used to send out statements, warnings and short-term forecasts to the public via the media. The reports also go into "Storm Data", which is a publication that documents severe weather across the country and can be used to create a severe weather climatology database of a specific county, city or region of the country.
7. How does the SKYWARN amateur radio network operate?
Many of our volunteers are licensed amateur radio operators. Each county, or a group of counties, is assigned a County Coordinator (CC) or Net Controller (NC) and several assistants. Whenever SKYWARN activation is requested by the NWS Forecast Office in Philadelphia / Mount Holly, these CC/NC's notify the SKYWARN Spotters in under their jurisdiction through announcements on specified amateur radio frequencies. When reportable weather is observed by these volunteers, they relay their report directly to their Net Controller. The Net Controller then sends the report to the NWS via phone or *APRS/Packet radio*. When The NWS receives these reports they are used by the forecasters. Since phone calls take time away from other duties of the forecasters, the APRS system is ideal for the NWS and the HAM radio community. Net Controllers in the Mount Holly forecast area also have a direct 'voice' link via amateur radio to the weather service office. They also conduct a net every Thursday of the month at 9:00 PM on the BEARS UHF linked system.
8. What is the SKYWARN Advisory Committee?
The SKYWARN Advisory Committee, first of its kind in the United States, is made up of exceptionally dedicated technically oriented SKYWARN spotters who work together for the betterment of the Mount Holly SKYWARN program. The Advisory Committee has a governing body and a membership of about 20 individuals from all over the 34 county forecast coverage area. They have open meetings which are announced on the list server, on the homepage and in the newsletter. Some of their projects include, construction and maintenance of the linked BEARS UHF repeater chain which links most of the 34 county coverage area via amateur radio, the Automatic Position Reporting Service (APRS) network which is a network of several computers that communicate data via radio frequencies to the National Weather Service and to each other. Additional projects include maintaining this website as a central focal point for all spotters, coordinating and communicating training sessions, maintaining a list server discussion list and a Severe Storm warning list server. Additionally, a quarterly newsletter is published on this site giving the latest news and views. The Advisory Committee also runs an annual special event station which earmarks the beginning of the severe weather season (typically in March). Per capita, this group of volunteers is representative of a very high percentage of actively working membership which is always striving to maintain the group as one of the premier SKYWARN organizations in the country. If interested in joining, please go to the Advisory Committee page within this website.
9. How do I register for training?
If you are interested in obtaining training, please go to our Training Page here at the website where a list of training sessions will be posted as soon as they are scheduled. If you are a county coordinator and you have a training session that needs to be posted, please fill out the template and send to the Training Coordinating Committee for posting.