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Spotter Training

The NWS Fairbanks is looking for volunteer weather spotters in Interior Alaska, the North Slope, and Western Alaska from Scammon Bay to Point Hope.

Volunteer weather spotters are able to help their community and surrounding communities by reporting to the NWS thunderstorms, hail, heavy rainfall, strong winds, heavy snow, freezing rain, river and coastal flooding, etc. Most of the time a weather spoter will provide a report to us by phone, internet, or ham radio. There may be times where we will call you in the event we feel that something unexpected is happening in your area or to ask further questions on a report that you already gave to us.

To become an official NWS spotter, you receive free certified training conducted by the NWS. The spotter training covers how to make and send a spotter report, and provides all spotters with a common "weather language" to identify and describe weather events and ice and snow conditions. It is important that each spotter describes the same weather in the same way. This allows the NWS to incorporate your reports directly into their forecasting and warning system. The training is about a one hour presentation, with additional time for questions. If you are unable to travel to a training session, we can make other arrangements including online training. The training is good for two years.

If you are interested in becoming a spotter, click on this link and fill out the form. For additional information about our spotter program contact Lindsay Tardif-Huber by email or by phone at (907)458-3708.

What happens after I fill out the spotter signup form? We will contact you to arrange storm spotter training. Once you have had storm spotter training, we will issue a certificate with your spotter location ID and number. Remember, training is good for two years.

 

Reporting Hazardous Weather

Reporting hazardous weather (winter or summer) is essential! Remember that each report, regardless of the method, must include the time and location of the event.

When to report: Whenever you see weather that is, or potentially is, damaging or hazardous!

Why spotter reports are important: The key element of the mission of the National Weather Service is to issue weather-related warnings for the protection of life and property. So, volunteer storm spotters help us achieve this goal by giving us the information on hazardous weather as it's occurring.


How to report:

Online: Use our online weather reporting form!

Email: fairbanks.weather@noaa.gov - A great way to include picture and/or video.

Telephone: (907) 458-3708 If you do call in make sure to have your spotter ID or number ready so that we can identify who you are!

Facebook: Visit the NWS Alaska Region Facebook page and post a severe weather report to our wall.

Twitter: Send Twitter reports to the National Weather Service by including the #akwx or #nwsafg hastag or send them directly to @NWSFairbanks.


What to report:

With any report, please include your Spotter ID or number (for existing spotters only) or who you are (public, law enforcement, etc.), location, the time of the event, and what occurred. The Northern Alaska Weather Spotter Guide is a good reference to use.
 

 

 
Winter Weather
  • Heavy Snowfall
    • Measured or estimated accumulation of 3" or greater in 12 hours or less (take multiple measurements and get an average if possible).
    • Damage or impacts such as downed power lines, snapped tree limbs, cars off the road, etc.
  • Freezing Rain or Freezing Drizzle
    • Estimate the amount of ice accumulation (any) on the road or other surface in fractions of an inch.
    • Damage or impacts such as downed power lines, snapped tree limbs, cars off the road, etc.
  • Low Visibilities in Snow
    • Near-Blizzard: Visibility 1/4 to 1/2 mile with winds 25 mph or stronger.
    • Blizzard: Visibility less than 1/4 mile with winds 35 or stronger.

 

 

 
Heavy Rain and Flooding
  • Heavy Rain
    • How much rain fell and how quickly
    • 0.50" in 1 hour, 0.75" in 3 hours, or 1.00" in 6 hours
  • Flooding (swollen rivers due to rain, snow-melt, ice jam blockage, or Coastal Flooding)
    • Let us know if you observe any of the following:
      • Roads impassable due to high water.
      • Streams or rivers overflowing their banks, any occuring or potential property damage?
      • Depth of the water (estimate and use references such as cars or buildings if needed)
      • Mudslides: Are roads fully or partially blocked? Any property destroyed or damaged?
      • Breakup: The FIRST occurrence when ice on the river is breaking up and moving.
      • Coastal Flooding: Any erosion? How high up is the water?

 

 

 

 

Strong and Damaging Winds
  • Strongest wind speed (estimated or measured). Use the reference guide to the left to help.
  • Any degree of damge to trees, power lines, and structures.
  • Trees: diameter of limbs snapped off and health of tree (old or rotten?).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hail
  • Severe Hail (diameter greater than 1") is uncommon in Northern Alaska.
  • Report the diameter of the largest hail stone (estimated or measure) and the average hail size. Use the image below as a guide.
  • DO NOT report marble-sized hail!!!! Marbles vary widely in size.

 

 

 

 

 
Tornadoes, Funnels and Wall Clouds,
Damaging Dust Devils
  • Damaging Dust Devils
    • Occur during late Spring and early Summer.
    • Can damage outbuildings and weakly constructed structures.
  • Funnels and Wall Clouds
    • Rare in Northern Alaska.
    • Wall cloud: is it rotating?
    • Funnel Cloud: How far down to the ground does it extend?
    • Visible rotation with the funnel?
  • Tornadoes
    • Extremely rare and weak in Northern Alaska.
    • If you do observe one, let us know:
      • Distance and direction the tornado is from your location.
      • Any observed damage or injuries?
      • Is Tornado roping out or becoming stronger?

Spotter Resources

 

NWS Fairbanks Storm Spotter Training consists of in-person training (~ 1 hour). A copy of the training slides will be sent after the in-person training.

Northern Alaska Weather Spotter Training Presentation

Additional Information:

NWS Fairbanks Storm Spotter Q&A

What is a storm spotter?
NWS Fairbanks storm spotters are critical eyes-on-the-ground volunteers who identify and report severe weather to the NWS. In Alaska, this mainly consists of reporting snowfall totals or the presence for freezing rain and ice accumulation. However, we encourage storm spotters to report any weather that is impacting their community.

Why are storm spotters needed?
Spotters provide verification of severe weather occurring in their area. Due to the limited radar coverage in Northern Alaska, our spotter reports are often the only way of confirming what is going on at the surface. We use our spotter reports to aid in the forecasting and warning process to make sure we are putting out the most accurate and up-to-date dorecasts and weather advisories as possible. We also use the reports to inform the public through the media of any significant weather.

Will I get paid to be a spotter?
You will not get paid to be a spotter. All of our spotters are volunteers.

Will I need to buy any equipment?
No. It is not necessary to have weather instruments to be a spotter. Snowboards, snow sticks, and rain gauges are helpful when reporting snowfall and rainfall measurements.

What is the difference between a spotter and a Cooperative Observer?
Cooperative observers submit weather information such as temperature and precipitation on a daily basis, while spotters only report severe weather on an as-needed basis.

How is my information on the storm spotter registration form used?
All information provided on the storm spotter registration form will never be released and remains internal to the NWS. All spotter reports received will only be identified by spotter ID.

What if I move?
If you move out of Northern Alaska, we will remove your name from our storm spotter list and refer you to the nearest National Weather Service office at your new location. If you move, but remain within Northern Alaska and still want to be a spotter, then contact us with your updated information.

Any additional questions?
Please email Lindsay Tardif-Huber, at lindsay.tardif-huber@noaa.gov or call the NWS Fairbanks office at (907) 458-3708.