The National Weather Service is looking for some attentive eyes to watch the skies. With the monsoons just weeks away, volunteers are needed to phone in reports of severe weather.
On-theground spotting helps meteorologists issue timely, accurate warnings and watches.
“The more we know, the more we can anticipate,” said Daniel Runyan, a warning coordination meteorologist at the Weather Service’s Phoenix office. Runyan is teaching a class for prospective volunteers in Mesa on Saturday.
As part of the SKYWARN program, weather watchers will learn how to identify and report on the development stages of severe thunderstorms, downbursts and desert flash flooding.
Those weather events are soon to be near-nightly events. The monsoons, on average, begin July 7 and last until Sept. 13. “Typically, we issue 80 thunderstorm warnings during the monsoons,” Runyan said.
Although SKYWARN volunteers are scattered across central Arizona, with 300 in metro Phoenix alone, the Weather Service wants spotters in the remote areas of its jurisdiction, which includes Maricopa, northwest Pinal and southern Gila counties.
Runyan said SKYWARN began almost 40 years ago with a network of ham radio operators in the Midwest. They were trained to look for tornadoes, as the Weather Service’s outdated radar was ill-equipped to scan the skies for twisters.
Gradually, the network grew across the nation, and now takes reports via telephone and the Internet.
Still, most NWS offices still maintain radio stations manned by amateur operators in hazardous weather; Phoenix’s call sign is WX7PHX.
SKYWARN Class Where: Fire Station 201, Community Service Room, 360 E. 1st St., Mesa
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
Who: Must be at least 18 years old to participate