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Tornado Lookouts

Meteorologists use radar to help forecast where tornadoes might form. But, the radar isn't sensitive enough to detect actual tornadoes. People are needed to do that.

The National Weather Service can't rely on reports from any old person off the street. These people don't have any training so they may not actually see what6 they think they see. Instead, the Weather Service offers classes that anyone can take to become part of SKYWARN, a network of trained volunteer spotters. Meteorologists can trust the accuracy of the trained spotter reports. If a tornado is spotted, they can issue a tornado warning with a good degree of confidence.

Storm spotting is different than storm chasing. Spotters work in organized networks to observe, detect, and verify severe weather events for the NWS and for local emergency managers. Local SKYWARN organizations are run on a county level, so spotters usually stay within or near their county.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA