Storm Spotter Online Training
NWS Springfield, MO

NWS logo
Spotter's Mission




Training Objectives 


This training was designed to provide SKYWARN spotters, dispatchers, emergency management and the public in general with an understanding of:

  • Who the National Weather Service (NWS) is, and what the NWS does 

  • The NWS weather warning process

  • The mission and role of a spotter in the warning process.

The NWS Mission


NWS data and products form a national information database and infrastructure which can be used by other governmental agencies, the private sector, the public, and the global community. 


The National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, it territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas, for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy.



NOAA's National Weather Service  


The National Weather Service (NWS) is an agency in the Federal Government. The NWS is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), within the Department of Commerce. 



NWS Springfield County Warning Area (CWA)


NWS Springfield is responsible for the issuance of severe weather warnings for 37 counties across the Missouri Ozarks and extreme southeast Kansas.



WFO Springfield County Warning Area



Spotter's Mission


Who Are Weather Spotters?  SKYWARN spotters are the “eyes and ears” for the National Weather Service (NWS). These volunteers include law enforcement and fire department personnel, amateur radio operators, and the general public.


The storm spotter's mission is, "To see with trained eyes and to report." 


The spotter's mission is NOT to chase, but to provide information from fixed or mobile locations. The objective of this information is for it to be used by the NWS and Emergency Management to the benefit of the public.


Your Report is Important!  Remember, you may be providing the citizens of your community with the REASON to take shelter!

Remember, being at the right spot at the right time isn’t enough!  Effective communications are even more important than spotting a tornado!  As a trained spotter, you should ensure your report makes it to the proper authorities and the NWS.

Spotters should attend annual SKYWARN training provided by the NWS.  These online modules  are intended to provide an overview of spotter concepts.  A more in depth explanation of these and other concepts are provided at SKYWARN spotter classes. 

The Importance of Spotters

Why do we need spotters?  Your report is...


Crucial to NWS warning decision process: 

  • Radar Interpretation 
  • Environmental Data 
  • Spotter Information

Crucial to public safety:

  • Provides specific reports to include in warning product
  • Provides detailed reports that results in response

Crucial to other spotters:

  • Other spotters will know where to position
  • "Heads up" information
  • Increase accuracy

Real-time Spotter reports have several benefits to the warning process including:

  • Gives greater confidence to the NWS warning decision maker

  • Adds credibility to warnings

  • Enhances public response

  • Improves warning accuracy

The effective spotter report provides critical information to emergency management and law enforcement officials, the media, and the National Weather Service.



Warning Dissemination Matrix




Warning Decision Process


Spotters play a vital role in the warning process.  Your report provides the NWS with critical information in making  potentially life saving warning decisions.  


A forecaster integrates the spotter report into a matrix of information that is analyzed.  The spotter report can often be that critical piece of information that gives the forecaster greater confidence in issuing or not issuing a severe weather warning.


Warning Decision Matrix





The Warning Process



Warning Issued


Using Doppler radar, real-time weather data, and weather spotter reports, National Weather Service meteorologists closely analyze severe thunderstorm potential.


Warning decisions are made by the forecaster after considering: warning pictures

  • Does the environment support severe weather development? 

  • Does radar data indicate a severe weather threat? 

  • Are spotter reports consistent with severe weather potential or occurrence?










Warning Disseminated


Once a warning is issued, it is disseminated to law enforcement communication centers, NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio, and the media.


warning dissemination pictures







Public Respondssafety picture


The public receives the warning and responds correctly.


Your report can result in: saftey picture

  • Accurate and timely warnings 

  • Effective and detailed warning information that leads life saving action













Thank You!


The National Weather Service thanks all of those who volunteer their time and energy in providing crucial storm reports.


Your report can save lives in your community.

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