National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

National Weather Service
SKYWARN® Program

Skywarn spotters for the National Weather play an important role in our warning process and help our communities stay safe.


Fall 2020 - Winter Spotter Training

NEW for 2020, we are excited to offer a special winter spotter course! This class covers winter weather science, the winter 2020-2021 outlook, how to measure and report winter weather to NWS, and many resource available to stay up-to-date on the forecast. Live classes were offered in early November, and a recording of the talk is available to view. You do NOT need to be an official spotter for our office to watch! This presentation focuses on northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin, but those outside our region are also welcome to watch. 

To watch the recorded video, please visit our Winter Spotter Training Page

2020 Skywarn Spotter Training - Online Recorded Version

If you missed the webinars this spring, it's okay! We recorded the presentation and it's available for you to watch anytime. If you're from the Northland and want to register to be a spotter, or you just want to get a bit of refresher training, please check out the recorded version! To register as a spotter (or to refresh your contact information if you're a current spotter), following these three steps: 1) Watch the five-part video series 2) Write down each of the 5 "code words" presented in the videos 3) Fill out the Spotter Registration Form. A few days after filling out the form, we'll follow up with a "hand out" document from the class that has our spotter phone number, a summary of what and how to report to our office, and some links to websites we discussed during the presentation. If you have questions, comments, or feedback on this class or the Skywarn program, please contact Warning Coordination Meteorologist Joe Moore:

Looking for a recording of the Advanced Skywarn training? Once you complete the basic training, please email Joe (above) for a link to the Advanced class recording! Note that we do not have "advanced" spotters or give any special certification for taking the advanced class, it's just an optional supplement to our basic training. 

Tools for current spotters

Update Contact Information or Remove From List

To update your contact information, or to be removed from our list, please use this form: Update Information or Remove From List

Generate Skywarn Spotter Card/Certificate

Are you looking for a spotter card or certificate to print out? Use our Skywarn Spotter Card Generator! (You will need a code - for the code, please email Joe at to verify spotter information.)



What is SKYWARN?

The National Weather Service's SKYWARN® program provides FREE 2-hour training to volunteers in the community who help identify and report severe weather including large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.

Since the program began in the 1970s, the information provided by SKYWARN® spotters has helped the National Weather Service issue timely and accurate warnings to protect lives and property. There can be no finer reward than to know that their efforts have given communities the precious gift of time, the seconds and minutes which can help save lives.

Each Spring, National Weather Service offices across the country train volunteers within their area of responsibility. At the Duluth office, we are responsible for training across northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. Our neighboring offices in Grand Forks, Minneapolis, La Crosse, Green Bay, and Marquette offer training for their service areas.

Who can be a spotter?

We encourage anyone with an interest in weather to attend a SKYWARN® class in your community to become an official and trained weather spotter. No registration is required, just show up. Anyone who spends time outdoors, whether working, camping, fishing, golfing, or hiking will also benefit from a SKYWARN® class. Public safety personnel are also encouraged to attend SKYWARN® training.

What does Skywarn Spotter training cover?

SKYWARN® training covers the following topics:

  • The mission of the National Weather Service and how SKYWARN® spotters play an important role in the warning process.
  • Thunderstorm formation and the types of thunderstorms. We'll study the meteorological dynamics involved in thunderstorm production and what it takes for a storm to produce damaging winds, large hail, and tornadoes.
  • Visual indicators spotters can look for to identify possible severe weather. This includes types of clouds associated with specific areas of a thunderstorm, how to identify rotation and discriminate between strong and weak rotation, and discriminating between tornadoes and look-a-likes.

Current SKYWARN® spotters are asked to attend training at least every 4 years in order to refresh their training.


Is there a cost for the training?

No. The National Weather Service provides training free of charge. 


Do you offer an Advanced spotter class? What does the Advanced spotter training cover?

New for 2020, by popular demand we are offering a few sessions of an Advanced spotter training class. This class will go more in-depth into thunderstorm development, storm identification, and radar interpretation. Spotters should take the basic/normal course before taking the Advanced course. If you have a topic you'd like to see covered in the Advanced course, please email Joe at

What's my spotter ID? When will I get my spotter ID card?

Going forward, we will no longer be using spotter ID numbers. For future in-person classes, we will still distribute a business card with our contact information and some quick reference information, but we are discontinuing the ID numbers. If you still have a spotter number you can use it when you call our office, but we will no longer assign new spotter ID numbers. 


What other training is available?

In addition to the classroom-based SKYWARN® training sessions, online training is available through the COMET MetEd website (registration is required). The online training is a great supplement and annual refresher but is not intended to replace a classroom session.

Local Skywarn Organizations

In some areas, local SKYWARN® organizations have been organized to better support the National Weather Service mission. Below is a partial list of local SKYWARN® organizations in the region.



SKYWARN® is a registered trademark of NOAA's National Weather Service. Rules for the usage of the SKYWARN® name and logo are available at

StormReady, TsunamiReady, Turn Around Don't Drown,
NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio, NOAA Publications

If you have questions, please contact Joe at