* What is SKYWARN?
What is SKYWARN?
SKYWARN, a program of the National Weather Service (NWS), is a network of volunteer weather spotters with training in how to spot and report severe weather conditions.
SKYWARN spotters fill an important void for the NWS. Despite all its tools -- radar, remote weather reporting stations, storm history -- the NWS can't actually "see" tornados, wind damage, hail, road flooding, snow, or icy roads. It may know that such developments are likely to occur, but it can't be certain if they really are occurring or where they are occurring. Skywarn spotters provide "ground truth."
Although non-hams can also be SKYWARN spotters, hams have some special advantages in weather reporting. Hams aren't tied to telephone systems that may fail. Also, many hams have radios in their cars, so they can report developments instantly as they travel through different areas. And by radio nets, the net coordinator can consolidate spotter reports to give a single, concise report to a very busy NWS office in Upton, NY.
You must be at least 16 years old, be able to observe weather (though no weather instruments are required), and have access to a telephone or ham radio to make reports.
You must take a SKYWARN Spotter class, which is a three-hour seminar that teaches you the basics of how SKYWARN operates, how to spot severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, what to report, how to report, and when. Shortly after completing the class you will be mailed a SKYWARN certificate with your personal SKYWARN ID number that you will use when reporting weather conditions.
Usually, severe weather "warnings" automatically activate SKYWARN. The NWS will broadcast severe weather warnings on the NOAA weather radio frequencies. In Hudson County, it is 162.550 MHz (NYC).
To learn about severe weather warnings, consider purchasing a Weather Radio (commonly available at Radio Shack and other electronic stores). Weather Radios will sound an alarm when they detect specially encoded severe weather alert tones in the NOAA broadcast. New radios respond to the Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) digital codes and older radios respond to a 1050 Hz alerting tone. The Hudson County SAME code is 034027. If you live near a county line, you may want to put in additional county codes, as listed in the NOAA table of regional FIPS state and county codes.
After the NWS issues a severe weather "warning" or otherwise activates SKYWARN, the Hudson County SKYWARN coordinator, or a substitute, acting as net control, will start to call SKYWARN reporting nets periodically on 146.535 MHz simplex.
During a SKYWARN net, the net control will ask for reports of ground conditions around the county. Please make your reports as short and as relevant as possible, responding to the net control's specific requests. Do not give unnecessary or gratuitous information. Note that in some cases, a negative report, e.g. "no snow accumulations," may be as important as a positive report.
Following the net, the net control will telephone the NWS Office in Upton, NY, to make a consolidated report to the NWS staff. (APRS is a secondary reporting system, but for now, the NWS prefers telephone reports.)
The net control will announce the discontinuance of the nets when the NWS cancels the severe weather warning or otherwise announces the end of the SKYWARN activation.
References for Spotters