Spotting a difference

Spotting a difference

Technology can only detect so much. 

Volunteers, better known as Spotters, can provide critical on the ground weather information to the National Weather Service that ultimately helps improve future warning services.

Plus, it’s fun.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has access to data from Doppler radar, satellite, and surface weather stations and years of data, experience and knowledge. But Spotters are so important the agency has a program called SKYWARN® to help recruit weather-loving, civic-minded individuals to be the eyes and ears in the field, according to the NWS website.
Interested individuals are encouraged to take a SKYWARN® class and learn how to help meteorologists issue timely, accurate and detailed warnings by confirming hazardous weather. 

“SKYWARN® Spotters serve their local communities by acting as a vital source of information when dangerous storms approach,” according to the NWS website. “Without spotters, NWS would be less able to fulfill its mission of protecting life and property.”
Volunteers could be police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility employees, or those affiliated with hospitals, schools, churches, nursing homes, or any other concerned private residents.

The National Weather Service has 122 Weather Forecast Offices, each with the SKYWARN® program. Training is free and typically lasts about two hours.

Spotters learn: 
•    Basics of thunderstorm development
•    Fundamentals of storm structure
•    Identifying potential severe weather features
•    Information to report
•    How to report information
•    Basic severe weather safety

On average, there are 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,200 tornadoes and two landfalling hurricanes across the United States every year, leaving plenty of opportunities for Spotters to provide vital information. In addition, roughly 90 percent of all presidentially-declared disasters are weather-related, causing around 500 deaths each year and nearly $14 billion in damage, according to the NWS website.


Join the program and become part of nearly 290,000 trained severe weather spotters all working together to help keep their community safe.

“SKYWARN® storm spotters are part of the ranks of citizens who form the Nation's first line of defense against severe weather,” according to the NWS website. “There can be no finer reward than to know that their efforts have given communities the precious gift of time--seconds and minutes that can help save lives. 

While the main role of a storm spotter is to be their community's first line of defense against dangerous storms, they also provide important information to NWS warning forecasters who make critical warning decisions. 

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.”

There are plenty of SKYWARN® classes across the Brazos River basin. Click here for a list of those opportunities.