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NWS Pittsburgh Skywarn Program
About SKYWARN Training Schedule Training Certificates Submit Report More Resources

What is SKYWARN®?

A picture of a storm approaching NWS Fort Worth with a large shelf cloud.The effects of severe weather are felt every year by many Americans. In most years, thunderstorms, tornadoes and lightning caused hundreds of injuries and deaths and billions in property and crop damages.  To obtain critical weather information, the National Weather Service (NWS) established SKYWARN® with partner organizations. SKYWARN® is a citizen volunteer program with between 350,000 and 400,000 trained severe weather spotters. SKYWARN® storm spotters are citizens who form the nation's first line of defense against severe weather. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports oA picture of Amateur Radio operators working HAM radios at NWS Fort Worth.f severe weather to the National Weather Service.

Although SKYWARN® spotters provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the main responsibility of a SKYWARN® spotter is to identify and describe severe local storms. In an average year, the the United States experiences more than 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes.

Since the program started in the 1970s, the information provided by SKYWARN® spotters, coupled with Doppler radar technology, improved satellite and other data, has enabled NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods. Storm spotters play a critical role because they can see things that radar and other technological tools cannot, and this ground truth is critical in helping the NWS perform our primary mission, to save lives and property.

For more information, visit the National Skywarn Spotter Page

The SKYWARN® Program at NWS Pittsburgh

Many people ask how they can become a member of SKYWARN. In most cases, SKYWARN isn't really something you join, but instead is a concept based on having citizen volunteers help their community and the NWS by observing and reporting hazardous weather occurring in their area. Anyone can be a storm spotter and submit reports directly to the NWS. Over half of our 1600 + spotters are also licensed amateur radio operators (a.k.a hams). The hams throughout many of our counties meet and organize their spotter efforts on one radio frequency (network or nets), when severe weather threatens. Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) provides communication support for the SKYWARN™ program.

A picture of a SKYWARN class with attendees.Every year, NWS Pittsburgh conducts multiple SKYWARN classes within our coverage area of 35 counties in Western PA, Eastern OH, and Northern WV. These classes are usually held in the late winter and early spring, before the spring severe weather season. A listing of upcoming in-person and online SKYWARN classes can be found under the Training Schedule tab above. Each class is free and open to all ages. Some classes may have registration, so check the link on the Training Schedule page.

The SKYWARN presentation covers severe thunderstorm characteristics, cloud formations, identifying the different threats associated with severe storms, how to report, and basic weather safety. We strongly recommend everyone attend a SKYWARN presentation at least once every few years to refresh on these concepts. If needed, training certificates are provided at each class. We do not issue Spotter IDs.

To register your info to be part of our Skywarn database, visit: Skywarn Registration