- Written by Brian Keahl
- Category: Emergency Communications
- Published: 01 June 2017
- Hits: 10610
Amateur radio and the National Weather Service have a unique and exciting relationship, where amateur radio operators with an interest in meteorology can combine those two interests and provide valuable public service.
The National Weather Service (NWS) sponsors a weather spotting program open to all interested citizens, but with special consideration for amateur radio operators. The NWS SKYWARN program is a multi-faceted program designed to train public safety personnel, amateur radio operators, and citizens at large in the basics of storm spotting and reporting.
Where things get really interesting for amateur radio operators is the NWS maintains amateur radio stations at their centers, usually working in conjunction with repeater owners who link repeaters together forming a wide-area linked repeater network for amateur radio operators to report real-time directly to the NWS!
In Georgia, the NWS Peachtree City office is the center of the action for amateur radio operators operate equipment that, in conjunction with the linked repeater network, can maintain contact with amateur radio operators / storm spotters all across the state.
Local groups, like Carroll ARES, run a local net on the Carrollton repeater (146.640-131.8). Unlike the linked repeater network, where traffic needs to be kept to an absolute minimum due to the number of repeaters involved, our local net has flexibility to operate in whatever way best serves our area, relaying reports to the NWS through the linked repeater net or when they directly check-in on our repeater. Carroll ARES has developed its own Weather Net Protocol, which you might want to view.
Georgia also participates in the "Storm Ready" program, where counties must meet a variety of criteria, including hosting SKYWARN training classes every two years. These training programs are usually held late Winter until early Spring, before the storm season starts. The NWS recommends attending the bi-annual training classes to ensure we are as well prepared for spotting as possible.
So, what if we are in the middle of the training cycle and you haven't been through the course? First, you may be able to attend training in neighboring county if it is early in the year by checking this site (GA) and make contact to ensure they have room for you in the class. If you find there is no class available, consider taking an on-line course at this site.
Here is a link to a variety of documents, including the manual for Advanced Storm Spotting. NWS infrequently offers Advanced Storm Spotting, so you'll just have to stay on the lookout for them, and will likely need to travel to attend.
I hope you'll seriously considering adding storm spotting to your list of qualifications and participate in weather nets when conditions necessitate one.