Virtual Office Tour - HAM Operators & SKYWARN Spotters
SKYWARN logo. The SKYWARN program is an essential part of achieving our NWS mission of protecting lives and property. Since SKYWARN began in the 1970s, thousands of volunteers have helped the NWS issue more accurate and timely severe weather warnings by acting as spotters. The role of the spotter is to serve as the eyes and ears of the NWS during severe weather situations. Even with all the new technology available to NWS forecasters that we covered at previous tour stops, an accurate report from a SKYWARN spotter often provides the critical piece of information needed by the forecaster to issue a timely life-saving warning.

Most SKYWARN volunteers are involved with amateur (HAM) radio, because HAM radio operators are well-equipped to relay their reports of severe weather. HAM radio operators are a valuable resource to the NWS because of their ability to communicate during times of severe weather when other communication media may fail. Many HAMs have radios in their cars, which allows them to "go mobile" and get to areas where severe weather is occurring.

A picture of equipment in our HAM Network Control cubicle, located adjacent to the operations room.

When we activate SKYWARN, we try to schedule one or more HAM operators to come into the NWS office to use the station pictured above. This HAM acts as a network controller by relaying information between other HAMs in the field and NWS personnel. HAMs report their positions and eyewitness reports, while NWS personnel give information about storm locations and motions.

Additional information about SKYWARN and HAM volunteers is available on our SKYWARN homepage.

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