How to Get Involved with Weather Spotting


Weather spotting requires a serious investment of personal time and effort to properly observe and report conditions to the National Weather Service office in Green Bay (WFO GRB). While recent popular movies, such as "Twister", or "Category 5/6" portray a certain excitement to severe weather spotting, they fail to accurately portray the real side of severe weather: people get hurt, property is damaged, and lives may be lost. Storm spotting is a highly rewarding public service, but one must approach it as a respectful, mature activity. When one joins a spotting team, it is expected that they will be mature, reliable, and respectful. Your team members must be able to rely on you; and you must have faith in your team.

Our program utilizes Amateur Radio (HAM) as a communications tool. In our modern day of cell phones and wireless internet, one may wonder why older technologies like ham radio are used. The answer is simple: we have an established infrastructure (radios work with each other and are widely available), and with few moving parts, we can respond when most complex technologies fail. Your cell phone may work around 0.3 to .5 watts; our radio equipment starts around 4 - 5 watts for handhelds, up to 50 - 100 watts for mobile / car installations, and up to 1500 watts for base repeater installations. We have the power to make it through the storm, and learn the knowledge on how to do it safely.

Thus, the first step to join our program involves earning an amateur radio license. There is a test involved ($7 - $ 15), and lots of study materials are available on the internet. If you can do math, some fractions, and can read / study a bit on electronic theory, the test will be easy for you. And, no, you do not need to learn Morse Code for the Technician Class license. No, you do not have to use big ugly antennas, unless you choose to explore that part of the hobby. A capable station, with new equipment, might cost $500 for a dual-band radio and antenna, but there are many places to find used equipment for half the cost.

After you earn your license, you will then need to attend Official Training, as given by the staff of the WFO GRB. We strongly encourage people to attend training every other year, although it is always best to attend on a yearly basis. Also, look at the Safety Tips, as they contain valuable information and insights into real-life spotting experiences.

Finally, after the training, we encourage you to team up with an experienced storm spotter for "in the field" training and guidance.