What is SKYWARN?
SKYWARN is a concept developed in the early 1970's that was intended to promote a cooperative effort between the National
Weather Service and communities. The emphasis of the effect is often focused on the storm spotter, an individual who takes
a position near their community and reports wind gusts, hail size, rainfall, and cloud formations that could signal a developing
Another part of SKYWARN is the receipt and effective distribution of National Weather Service information.
The organization of spotters and the distribution of warning information lies with the National Weather Service or with an
emergency management agency within the community. This agency could be a Police or Fire department, or an emergency management/service
group. (what people may still think of as Civil defense groups.) This varies across the country however, with local national
weather service offices taking the lead in some locations, while emergency management takes the lead in other areas.
SKYWARN is not a club or organization, however, in some areas where Emergency Management programs do not perform the function,
people have organized SKYWARN groups that work independent of a parent Goverment agency and feed valuable information to the
National Weather Service. While this provides the radar meteorogist with much needed input, the circit is not complete if
the information does not reach those that can activate sirens or Emergency broadcast systems.
SKYWARN spotters are not "Storm Chasers". While their functions and methods are similar, the spotter stays close to home and
usually has ties to a local agency. Storm chasers often cover hundreds if miles a day. The term Storm Chaser covers a wide
variety of people. Some are meteorologists doing specific research or are gathering basic information (like video) for training
and comparison to radar data. Others chase storms to provide live information for the media, and other simply to it for the
Storm Spotting and Storm Chasing is dangerous and should not be done without proper training experience and equipment.
The National Weather Service conducts spotter training classes across the United States, and your local National Weather Service
office should be consulted as to when the next class when be held.