National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


NWS Birmingham, AL
SKYWARN Storm Spotter Program


NWS Birmingham Storm Spotter Classes

We offer sets of online basic spotter courses and one advanced spotter course each spring and fall, usually February into March and again in October, leading into our regional climatological increases in severe weather. These online courses are FREE and allow individuals to complete the course(s) in the comfort of their home or office using GoToWebinar. By attending any course, which runs about 2 hours, an individual or group of individuals will become a SKYWARN storm spotter.

Unless you'd like to or are in need of a refresher, which we recommend, you do not have to attend more than one basic course as the material covered is the same; however, we require you to attend at least one basic course before taking the advanced course. These courses are two-way, meaning you will be able to interact with the NWS meteorologist leading the training. You will be muted while training is in progress, but you may use the built-in feature to ask questions.

Note: A spotter class may be cancelled or rescheduled if affected by active weather.


How to Attend an Online SKYWARN Spotter Class

To avoid being hurried, give yourself at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the class to complete the following:

  1. Via the schedule below, register by clicking the link corresponding to the class you'd like to attend.
  2. Select the "join webinar" button on the registration page or in your confirmation email and follow the prompts.
  3. Enjoy the class and feel free to ask questions!

Winter-Spring 2023 Class Schedule


Online Classes




Registration Link

Tuesday, February 21st 6:30 pm Basic
Tuesday, February 28th 6:30 pm Basic
Thursday, March 2nd 1:00 pm Basic
Thursday, March 9th 6:30 pm Basic
Thursday, March 23rd 6:30 pm Advanced
TBD means To Be Determined.
Classes are ~2.0 hours long unless otherwise indicated
All times are Central unless otherwise noted.


In-Person Classes
(Registration is not required unless otherwise noted)





Thursday, February 23rd
6:00 pm


Etowah Gadsden City High School
1917 Black Creek Parkway
Gadsden, AL 35904
Thursday, March 9th
6:00 pm
Basic Winston Haleyville City Hall
911 21st Street
Haleyville, AL 35565
Thursday, March 30th
6:00 pm


Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa County Courthouse Annex
2513 7th Street
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
TBD means To Be Determined.
Classes are ~2.0 hours long unless otherwise indicated
All times are Central unless otherwise noted.
What is SKYWARN?

SKYWARN is the National Weather Service (NWS) program of trained volunteer weather spotters. Storm spotters come from many walks of life, including fire fighters, law enforcement, amateur radio operators, and the public. SKYWARN storm spotters provide important ground truth information to NWS warning forecasters who make critical warning decisions during severe weather, and help the NWS perform its primary mission to save lives and property.

Note: This is not storm chaser training. A storm spotter is a volunteer service that is conducted primarily from fixed locations such as from home, work, or around your community. The National Weather Service does not endorse or encourage the use of storm spotter training for storm chasing.

SKYWARN name and logo are trademarked: SKYWARN® is a registered trademark of NOAA's National Weather Service. Please read the rules for the usage of the SKYWARN® name and logo.


Additional SKYWARN Learning Material

Visuals and Descriptions

➡️ NWS Weather Spotter's Field Guide

➡️ NWS JetStream - An Online School for Weather

​➡️ Sky Watcher Chart

​➡️ Basic Storm Spotter Presentation from February 6, 2023

➡️ Advanced Storm Spotter Presentation from November 1, 2021


Amateur Radio Clubs

📻 ALERT - Alabama Emergency Response Team

📻 Birmingham Amateur Radio Club

📻 Montgomery Amateur Radio Club

📻 Tuscaloosa Amateur Radio Club




                        MetEd Image                                                                     MetEd Image


The "Role of the SKYWARN® Spotter" module is used to provide baseline training for all spotters through multiple scenarios covering the procedures for spotting (including communication
and storm report criteria), safety considerations for all hazards, and an overview of the national program and its history.
The "SKYWARN® Spotter Convective Basics" module 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.


What and How to Report

If you are within NWS Birmingham's 39 county coverage area (shown below) and when you can do so safely, send us a report. Include photos if you are able to. Remember, be concise and accurate with your report -- who, what, when, and where. Please do not relay reports based on what you are seeing/hearing on television or on your app.

➡️ Send a report via NWS web page

➡️ Send us a message on Facebook

➡️ Tag us in a Tweet or send a direct message

      Include #alwx on your social media report and include a photo if possible

➡️ Call us at 205-664-3010, option 2


Hail (any size):
Measure the largest hail stone or compare it to a common item.  

  • 0.25" or less - pea
  • 0.50" - mothball
  • 0.75" - dime/penny
  • 0.88" - nickel
  • 1.00" - quarter (severe threshold)
  • 1.25" - half dollar
  • 1.50" - walnut/ping pong ball
  • 1.75" - golf ball
  • 2.00" - hen egg
  • 2.50" - tennis ball
  • 2.75" - baseball
  • 3.00" - tea cup
  • 4.00" - grapefruit
  • 4.50" - softball

Strong or damaging winds
What was damaged and to what extent?

  • Healthy trees snapped or uprooted
  • Large tree branches blown down
  • Power poles downed
  • Structures damaged (businesses, homes, outbuildings, etc.)

Rotating wall cloud, funnel cloud, or tornado
Be sure to confirm rotation and include the direction and distance of these features from your location.

Focus on water 6" or more in depth that is rapidly flowing or standing water that is 3' or more deep. Is the flood water threatening life or property? Are waterways/streams and creeks rapidly rising?

Severe Thunderstorm criteria (any combination of the following):

  • Winds of 58+ mph
  • Hail of 1" in diameter or larger
  • A tornado