National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

General Information


The effects of severe weather are felt every year by many Americans. To obtain critical weather information, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, established SKYWARN with partner organizations. SKYWARN is a volunteer program with nearly 290,000 trained severe weather spotters. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of 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, 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes occur across the United States. These events threaten lives and property.

Amateur radio has remained an important part of the National Weather Service mission for many years. Without amateur radio operators spotting storms in the field, the Weather Service is often faced with using information obtained solely by instrumentation. Thus the spotter becomes the "eyes and ears" for the Weather Service. Our radar operators rely on spotter reports to validate what we are seeing. Even with the latest technology, the National Weather Service continues to need trained spotters in the field!

W5MAF, our SKYWARN station identification was issued to us December 5, 1996 by the FCC. Anyone with a scanner that receives 144-148 MHz or 440-449 MHz can monitor storm spotters in action.

An amateur radio license is not hard to obtain. You can now get a Technician Class license by studying and passing a 35 question test (26 correct is needed to pass). The General Class license is a 35 question test (26 correct is needed to pass) and the Extra Class license is a 50 question test (37 correct is needed to pass). A Technician Class license will allow you to operate above 30MHz. Knowing Morse Code is not a requirement anymore for any of the three classes of licenses. For further information contact: 

Amber Hluchan

We would like to see more licensed amateurs in some of the outlying areas where there is radio coverage...but no amateur radio operators. If you're interested in weather spotting and think you can help make a difference, please contact us today! Classes are free and typically are about two hours long.

You can also check for hazardous weather information and spotter activation information on our Graphical Hazardous Weather Outlook page.


SKYWARN Training