Weather Spotter Q&A
What is a weather spotter?
NWS 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 of freezing rain and ice accumulation. However, we encourage spotters to report any weather that is impacting their community.
Why are spotters needed?
Spotters provide verification of severe weather occurring at the surface in their area. Due to the limited radar coverage in 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 advisory process to make sure we are putting out the most accurate and up-to-date forecasts 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.
Is there any training required?
In order to be a spotter, you will need to complete the Alaska Weather Spotter Training Course, which is available online. The course is available online and takes about 30 minutes to complete. You will then have to complete a short quiz on the information from the Training Course in order to be certified as an Alaska Weather Spotter.
How much of a time commitment would it be?
The training in order to become a certified Alaska Weather Spotter takes about 30 minutes to complete. Once trained, we typically call our spotters a few times a year. If you live in a more rural area, we might call more often since it can be difficult to get reports in those areas. If you would be interested in submitting reports online, you may do so as often as is convenient for you.
What geographic areas are you looking for spotters in?
NWS Alaska can use spotters located anywhere in the state! Some partifular areas in the Anchorage forecast area where we have difficulty getting reports are the Kenai Peninsula, the Susitna Valley, the Matanuska Valley, the Copper River Basin, Southwestern Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula, and the Aleutians.
Will I need to buy any equipment?
It is not necessary to have any weather instruments to be a spotter. Snowboards and snowsticks are helpful when reporting snowfall measurements, however unfortunately, we cannot supply any official equipment. We have directions to make your own snowboard for snow measurements if you would be interested in making one for more exact measurements.
What is the difference between a spotter and a COOP observer?
COOP observers submit weather information such as temperature and preciptation on a daily basis, while spotters only report severe weather on an as-needed basis.
What information will I need to give? Will my information ever be given out?
We will need a phone number that we can call for reports and either an address or approximate location (ex. 5 miles NE of Talkeetna) of the weather reports. Your information will never be given our or used for anything other than storm reports.
Is there an age requirement?
All spotters need to be 18 years of age or older.
What if I change my mind or move?
You can request to update your information or be removed from the spotter list at any time.
Any additional questions?
Please email our spotter focal point, Rebecca Duell, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Anchorage NWS office at (907) 266-5105.