The tools the National Weather service uses include many high tech pieces of equipment such
as: Dual Pol Doppler Radar, Geostationary and Polar Orbiting Satellites, radiosondes, and
observational mesonets to name a few. All of these tools serve a unique purpose and help us
protect lives and property. During severe weather one of the best tools is still the human
being, who acts as a weather spotter and reports what is being, seen and heard.
To effectively warn for the protection of life and property, the National Weather Service must
have a thorough handle on current weather conditions throughout this region. Unfortunately,
long distances separate National Weather Service offices. Although weather satellites and
doppler weather radar use the latest technology to provide a wealth of information to forecasters,
no tool has yet been developed that can replace a human observation of the weather in a local area
at a specific time.
You can help! By alerting us to significant weather events, you become the "eyes and
ears" of the National Weather Service in your area and help us determine when and where we need
to issue warnings. Your participation in the SKYWARNTM spotter program is entirely
voluntary. You are under no obligation and cannot be compensated. However, your
vigilance is valuable and greatly appreciated! It helps others and could save lives.
Role of the Weather Spotter
A weather spotter is a person who observes significant weather and relays the information to the
National Weather Service (NWS) or appropriate local authority,
based on the severity and immediate threat of the event observed.
Spotters provide an invaluable service to their communities and to the National Weather Service.
The information they provide helps their community by assisting local public safety officials in
making critical decisions aimed at protecting lives and property. During life-threatening weather
events such as tornadoes and flash flooding, these real-time reports from weather spotters are used
to help warn others in their community, as well as those neighboring communities which may be in
Spotter reports also help National Weather Service forecasters in the critical decision making
process of determining what storms pose a risk to lives and property. The National Weather Service
uses these critical reports from storm spotters in combination with radar, satellite, and automated
surface observations when issuing Severe Thunderstorm, Tornado, Flash Flood, Winter Storm, and other
types of warnings. Your report becomes part of the warning decision making process, and is combined
with radar data and other information and used by NWS forecasters to decide whether or not to:
Issue a new warning
Cancel an existing warning
Continue a warning
Issue a warning for the next county
Change the warning type (from severe thunderstorm to tornado, for example)
In addition to being used in the warning decision making process by National Weather Service
forecasters, spotter reports also provide valuable information to people in the path of a
potentially deadly storm. Ground truth reports from spotters help to give credibility to the
warnings issued by the National Weather Service to those people who are in the path of a potentially
damaging or life-threatening storm. This ground-truth information helps motivate people in harms way
to take action to protect themselves and their property.
At times, the National Weather Service may call a spotter after a storm has passed, in order to
inquire what conditions were like as the storm moved through. This information helps NWS forecasters
train for the next big event. Of course, spotters are always encouraged to take the initiative and
call the NWS office with their information.
Overview Spotter Training Classes Provided by
The NWS in conjunction with UCAR has developed two training modules that will help current and
future NWS Storm Spotters. The goal of the first module called Role of the Skywarn Spotter is to
provide baseline training for all current and future spotters through multiple scenarios covering
the procedures for spotting (including storm report criteria), safety considerations for all
hazards, and an overview of the national program and its history.
The goal of the second training module called Skywarn Spotter Convective Basics
will guide users to a basic understanding of convective storms. Through three different scenarios,
you will cover reporting and proper communication of local storm reports to the National Weather
Service (NWS), personal safety during these events, and field identification of convective storm
hazards. After completing the scenarios, you will be given the opportunity to practice identifying
storm features from a spectrum of photos.
For current spotters, these modules will help refresh your training and answer questions you may
have. For prospective spotters this training will help you understand what the role of the weather
spotter is, and help you understand the basics of severe weather. Completion of these modules will
not make you a trained weather spotter for the NWS, but will help you when you take the training
with your local NWS office. You will have register for each of these courses through the website and
there is no cost.
Local Spotter Training Classes
It's time once again for spotter training! As always, the National Weather Service provides
training in storm recognition and reporting procedures, so that you can be our eyes and ears in the
field. Be sure to attend and help us protect your family and your community!
Here are the upcoming classes:
Charleston SkywarnTM FAQ
Observing and Reporting Severe
Local Reporting Criteria
If you would like more information about the SKYWARNTM Program or you would like to
become a trained Skywarn Spotter contact your local weather office and ask for the WCM. If you live
in one of the 49 counties of our forecast area which includes pieces of four state (34 counties in
West Virginia, 9 counties in southeast Ohio, 4 counties in northeast Kentucky, and 2 counties in
extreme southwest Virginia), you will need to contact:
Faith Borden - WCM
National Weather Service Forecast Office
400 Parkway Rd
Charleston WV 25309
phone: (304) 746-0180 Monday-Friday 8:30am-4:30pm