Love Weather Events? Become a Weather Spotter!

By Sara Goodnick

What outdoor photographer doesn’t love weather events? I certainly do. You’re probably watching the weather forecasts, reading the forecast discussions, and scanning the skies daily in hopes of some interesting weather to capture.

A great fascination with weather has always been a part of my family. My mom worked at a tiny weather station in New Mexico during WWII and my dad, a HAM Radio operator, trained to become a tornado spotter in north Texas, so I grew up excited about the weather, including the frightening events we had in north central Texas, such as floods and tornadoes.

Much to my delight, I recently became an official Weather Spotter for the Phoenix area, and even received my own Spotter ID number.

How did this come about? The National Weather Service (NWS) has instituted the SKYWARN Storm Spotter Program for anyone with an interest in public service to join. An online 1-hour training webinar is required, as well as passing an online test that isn’t too hard if you pay attention and take notes. It was absolutely fascinating to learn more about thunderstorm development, storm structure, and how to identify potential severe weather. Bring it on!

The program, started in the 1970s, now has over 400,000 severe weather spotters. Severe weather reporting from observers on the ground augments the satellite and Doppler radar information received by the NWS and can help save lives especially when warnings can be sent out quickly and accurately. Severe thunderstorms, flooding, hail, rotating wall clouds, storm damage, and snow are among the reportable observations.

Photographers, your local SKYWARN program likes receiving your weather photos, too.

SKYWARN is a national program, so here is a link to the general NWS Storm Spotter Program’s webpage where you can find a link to a class in your area and more information:

A link for those in the South-Central and Southwest Arizona (which includes Phoenix) and far Southeast California area to NWS SKYWARN is:

And a great link for those on Facebook is this one for Phoenix Weather Enthusiasts.

Sara Goodnick is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.