SKYWARN Spotter Training

Rain storm on 4 Aug 2015

The Skywarn training was very interesting. I think I learned more about the weather tonight than I did back in grade school and Freshman Earth Science.

A fellow by the name of Chris Kimble, from the National Weather Service out of Gray, ME, presented on May 3rd at the CCMEA Bunker. He went over how to spot and report severe weather, even as it’s developing, and why they rely on reports from the public. When he was done, I was given a Spotter ID, and instructions on what to report to the National Weather Service.

The next live class appears to be in Augusta, and I found some online training for those who may be interested in weather science. I’ll also include my notes from the class below. It’s quite fascinating stuff, and you don’t need to be a ham to participate in spotting for the National Weather Service. Our local service center is in Gray, by the code GYX.

More Information

The Wireless Society of Southern Maine, who hosted the Skywarn training that I attended, has a great deal of info about Skywarn and how to communicate with them over the air:

Training and Documentation

Online training is provided at:

And the weather service has more information at:

Class Notes

My class notes:

- Chris Kimble, NWS

- Fatalities lead by floods
- GYX (Gray Weather Office) for Maine, NH

- Types
	- Watch: Wide Area, 4-6 hrs, potential
	- Warning: Observed, specific area, 1 hrs

- Type of events
	- Sever thunderstorms
		- 1" hail and/or wind gusts of 58 mph (damaging storm)
			- Hail: 
				- Accumulation of water droplets above the freezing air, 
				  which drop when they're too heavy to maintain altitude
				- Drops 100 mph
				- Common size is golf ball, baseball sized is rare
				- Estimate size based on common objects, a quarter is about 1"
			- Lightning:
				- 50,000 degrees
				- 30,000 ampres
		- Typical in afternoons May - July
		- Ingredients: Moisture, Instability, Lift
			- Lift
				- Mechanical Lift: Fronts (boundary between diff temp air masses)
		- Cool ocean stabilizes
		- Types
			- Pulse storm: 
				- Towering cumulus, cloud extends upward due to updraft
					- Scud is a cloud being sucked into the updraft
				- Core aloft collapses causing downpour and wind bursts
				- Shelf Cloud indicates end of storm
			- Supercell
				- Wind sheer is added, tilts the cumulus tower
				- Mesocyclone: 
					- Tilted rotating updraft
					- Spped shear: Rotation speed increases with height
				- Funnel / Tornado can form from updraft at base of column
				- No rain at updraft, only at base, due to udpraft at base,
				  downdraft after
				- Flat anvil type top
	- Tornado
		- Funnel may not reach ground, look for debris: updraft can still cause damage
		- EF0-EF1: Weak, most common, 110 mphs, 10 min, -2 miles
		- EF2-EF3: Strong, 17% nationwide, 110-205 mph, 10-20 min, 5-15 mi
		- EF4-EF5: Violent, 1% >205 mph, up to 1 hr, 50+ mi
		- Tornado is cyclone sucking into storm, downburst blows from downdraft out of
		  the storm.
		 - Can often come in families or groups
	- Flash flood
		- Deaths caused by people driving into an unknown amount of water, depth and
		  current, or washed out road surface

- Obersvations
	- ASOS - Automated ground level observation, usually at airports
	- Weather balloons
		- Released in tandem worldwide twice a day
		- ~900 stations
		- Measures temp, humidity, pressure, atmospheric stability through the vertical 
		  layers, as it goes up
		- RF stream
		- Parachutes down
	- Computer models
		- Atmospheric data broken into math equations
	- Satellite imagery
		- Visual
		- Infrared temperature of clouds
			- Higher = colder
			- Colder = lower
	- Weather radar
		- Periodic RF bursts, 360 deg
		- Higher reflectivity means more intense precipitation
	- Spotters
		- Radar is high angle, can't see storms past first layers of reflections
		- Blocked by terrestrial objects and big mountains (Mt Washington)
		- Belfast, example, radar is at 6400 feet, can't see groundlevel storms like tornadoes
		- Visual confirmation of cloud formations indicate density of storm

- What to report
	- Tornado
	- Flash Flooding
	- Funnel Cloud
	- Rotating Wall Cloud
	- Wind 50+ mph
	- Hail of any size
	- Rain > 1" r, 2" in few hours
	- Down trees and damage due to storms

- Don't report
	- Lightning
	- Dark Sky, it's raining

- How to report
	- 1-800-482-0913

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