WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Harry Spotter and the Order of the Supercell

Posted March 31, 2008

No such book, of course, but a fairly frequent question from our viewers and site visitors is "how do I become a severe weather spotter?" The subject comes up here because our local National Weather Service office, in conjunction with officials in Raleigh, Durham and some other area communities, has just scheduled a sizable number of Skywarn Basic and Advanced Spotter training classes that are free and open to the public, and it's a great chance for any of you who have a fascination with severe weather to get the latest updates on supercell thunderstorms, tornadoes, lightning, hail and flash flooding.

The training can be taken simply to increase your knowledge about severe storms, or for use as a spotter providing crucial "ground truth" in severe weather situations. Despite all the satellite, computer modeling and doppler radar technology at the disposal of meteorologists and emergemcy officials these days, eyewitness observations of severe weather events are still a critical part of getting the whole picture when a severe outbreak is underway. Traditionally, this has been a function carried out by trained spotters who are also ham radio operators, but the advent of cell phones has opened this function up to wider participation.

While I have not attended one of the Skywarn sessions, all of us in the WRAL WeatherCenter do participate in periodic meetings and seminars provided by our NWS colleagues covering winter weather, severe storms and tropical cyclones, and I can attest to the high quality of the presentations they've given at those events. Based on those, the Skywarn classes are likely to be both enjoyable and very informative sessions.

If you're interested in participating, a schedule of classes, along with all the needed contact information, is available at


For more information on the local Skywarn organization, see



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