The National Weather Service will offer storm spotter training Thursday, May 29 at East Longmeadow High School. It is an annual session for the SKYWARN program, which asks the public to gather measurements of rainfall, snowfall and other severe weather parameters to help meteorologists gather critical information throughout the year.
"We get a lot of reports coming in whether it's social media, by the public or on the phone," said Stephanie Dunten, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, MA. Dunten also coordinates many of the SKYWARN training sessions across southern New England.
"If you do have your SKYWARN number and were trained by us, that gives a little more validation that you officially know what you're doing, you officially know how to measure snow and how to measure rain," said Dunten.
Before the information gathered by SKYWARN spotters makes it on television, it is first fed directly to the National Weather Service offices. These reports can lead to adjustments in the forecast or possibly the issue of a new watch or warning.
"If it's [raining] two inches per hour and more rain is expected to come, and we're only forecasting two inches, obviously we need to up our amounts and maybe expand our flood watch," said Dunten.
Dunten also said SKYWARN spotters are given some brief meteorology lessons, such as different types of cloud formations and how to distinguish wall clouds and funnel clouds. During severe weather, a SKYWARN spotter's observation may be used to verify issuing a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning.
The training session at East Longmeadow High School begins at 7 p.m. The SKYWARN program is voluntary, and the public may also attend if they are simply interested in learning a little more about the weather.
"Some people are very gung-ho about the weather, so they'll call us and report every single thing that's occurring," said Dunten. "Some people will only call us for hail or strong winds, so it's really up to the volunteer how much effort they want to put into it."
More information about the SKYWARN program can be found at http://www.weather.gov/box/skywarnprogram.
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