What Does Joining SpotterNetwork Get You?

James K

EF2
Mar 26, 2019
170
69
6
Colorado
I see it mentioned frequently, and I know you can post a storm report to it, but...
What does SpotterNetwork truly gain you? Does it have its own forum like StormTrack? Is it a way to communicate with those 'little dots' (lol) that show on the radar in some apps?
Not really interested in joining it, simply more curious than anything.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
3,044
1,573
21
Westminster, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
Back in "the day" (the late 00s and into the 2010s) it was basically the only way to make a legitimate storm report that an NWS WFO would see and use, and submitted reports were more heavily scrutinized and of arguably higher quality. And yes, it was also a way to show off where you were on a given storm chase.

Nowadays with the advent of MPING and the proliferation of tendencies for NWS offices to use Facebook and especially Twitter to receive storm reports, SN in my opinion has strongly tanked as a preferred method of reporting severe weather. The old spotternetwork.org site had its own forum and use, but in 2018 it was absorbed by Stormtrack, so SN doesn't have an independent forum anymore really.

Personally I don't see it surviving much longer given its current state of use unless something else changes. Unless you plan on chasing a lot and reporting a lot of severe weather, I wouldn't bother going through the process of joining.

One potential benefit it offers, however, if you're not already experienced with reporting severe weather, is a beginner's course on doing so.
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
6,960
480
21
49
Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
And to add on to Jeff's reply - if you want your report to instantly show up on WFO screens, NWS chatrooms, on GR3/2AE displays used by broadcast mets and EMs, this is the only way to do it. All other methods require manual intervention, or (like mPing) are too limited in the information provided to add value for severe weather reporting.
 

James K

EF2
Mar 26, 2019
170
69
6
Colorado
Thanks guys.
So its mainly for making reports then?
Kinda sad that it may not survive much longer.

I really don't expect to chase as more than just an occasional thing. (allot will depend on having a storm on the right day/time/location .. I'm hoping for something next spring :) )

Reporting on storms is something I truly hadn't planned to do (or honestly even thought much about). Is it considered bad chasing manners if you get a good look at a tornado(for example) and don't report it?
(though I would assume if a storm is tornado-warned, its already been seen)

I mainly figured I'd go watch from a safe distance & try to get myself some pictures/video (I've seen varying thoughts on what's 'safe' anything from 1 to 10 miles...I guess I'd tend to go for the farther of that, atleast in the beginning)
Basically figured the closest I'd come to any sorta 'report' would be .maybe. put a vid on YouTube (though that wouldn't happen til the next day at the earliest)

I hadn't heard of mPING until now. Looks like an interesting app/project.
I have a FB account but basically don't use it (not really a fan of the site)
Other than following links people post that lead there, I've never used Twitter

I did download/read both the Skywarn basic & advanced spotters guides this spring (ended up being the first guides I'd read about severe weather). I know there's a class some NWS offices do to. That I haven't looked into.
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
6,960
480
21
49
Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
James - there's no reason to believe that SN is going anywhere. I'm not sure where that comment came from.

The down side of MPing is that it's totally anonymous, so if you report a tornado in the middle of nowhere and the NWS wants to check with someone to confirm, they don't know who you are. Plus they use a lot of weird categories so it's not nearly as precise as it should be.

Go ahead and join SN. It's free and far more productive that calling 911 to make a report :)
 
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Todd Lemery

Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
478
467
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54
Menominee, MI
The only thing that I can add is that many tornado warnings are radar indicated and may not have actually been reported by a spotter. Depending on distance and elevation, radar may not be able to see what is actually going on under a storm. It’s fairly common to see a tornado on an unwarned storm too, so if you can safely make a report (not while driving) and know what you are looking at, the more the merrier on making reports.
 
Jul 5, 2009
873
589
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
I have never joined SN. The main reason is that I really don’t want to see where everybody else is going: I don’t want to have confirmation bias, or second-guess my own target, or avoid a good one just because of the number of chasers heading there, or have yet one more thing to look at and consider while chasing (e.g., what roads might have more or fewer chasers).

I know it’s intended as a reporting tool and the above applications are just byproducts; feel free to admonish me if you think I’m wrong, but I never thought it was that important for me to add myself to the hundreds of “dots” already out there. With all the chasers and spotters, and as a chase vacationer, the chance that I am ever going to be the first one or only one to see and report a tornado is slim to none.
 
Jan 6, 2019
81
29
6
Tyler
I have never joined SN. The main reason is that I really don’t want to see where everybody else is going: I don’t want to have confirmation bias, or second-guess my own target, or avoid a good one just because of the number of chasers heading there, or have yet one more thing to look at and consider while chasing (e.g., what roads might have more or fewer chasers).

I know it’s intended as a reporting tool and the above applications are just byproducts; feel free to admonish me if you think I’m wrong, but I never thought it was that important for me to add myself to the hundreds of “dots” already out there. With all the chasers and spotters, and as a chase vacationer, the chance that I am ever going to be the first one or only one to see and report a tornado is slim to none.
Your wrong.
You don't have to be just another dot on the scope.
If you think seeing other dots grouped together may sway you to go somewhere else to that group, then where is your confidence in your decision making? Go where you think, helps you learn.
How many Youtubes have watched where that chaser was the only there? Quite a few have been.
You never know when your report may be the only one that NWS needs to forewarn a town.

May 30, Canton Tx. A DPS vehicle and I were the only around that saw the 3rd tornado touch down maybe 100 yards away from me.
Actually the DPS did not show up till some minutes after.
Everyone else was up on Hwy 80.

You do report more than just tornadoes....
 
Sep 7, 2013
566
395
21
Strasburg, CO
What Joe said...reporting isnt just tornadoes and hail...flooding reports are super helpful for everyone involved.

When i chase, i rarely beacon. Only on the busiest days with the most potential risk. Also when i chase i usually have spotters turned off on radarscope to reduce clutter, but having the ability to quickly post a report and move vs calling 911 and being asked a million questions while in questionable cell service areas helps keep the process quick and easy.

FWIW, i dont use twitter and facebook.
 
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Reactions: JamesCaruso
May 18, 2013
379
298
11
I agree with rdale - SN is unusually the fastest way to get your report in front of the people that matter, especially now with the RadarScope integration. IMO, SN and RadarScope integration is both the best and worst thing that has happened to SN. On one hand it has made it much easier to make a quick report. On the other hand it has also made it more popular and as a result has probably brought down the average quality of reports despite labor intensive efforts to weed out bad/marginal reports (not to mention it sure appears to have increased the user support workload for their volunteer staff). One reason some NWS offices are relaying more on Twitter than they used to is they can look at the picture and confirm - yep that's what that is.

Is it considered bad chasing manners if you get a good look at a tornado(for example) and don't report it? (though I would assume if a storm is tornado-warned, its already been seen)
As other have noted - many Tornado Warnings are issued based on radar only. Ground confirmation allows NWS to update the warning and typically get better response from the public when the warning says it was spotter confirmed. As to your question about reporting you will likely get very different and passionate responses depending on who you ask. I think you need to consider two things. First, you can't assume someone else has reported it. NWS WCMs often complain about storms where no one reported something. This is common in non-weather events also. I personally know of a fire that occurred at a church, everyone left as the fire alarm went off and stood outside thinking the alarm company had called the fire department. After about 20 minutes someone called the fire department asking why they weren't there and the answer was - no one called them.

The second thing you need to consider is - can you live with yourself if you don't report it and something bad happens. I've found that although I always report that when something bad happens I second guess myself. Knowing I made the report is helpful to me knowing I did everything I could have done.
 
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Mar 30, 2008
1,186
894
21
Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
SpotterNetwork is a great tool if used correctly. Submit your report and it's geotagged, and goes to NWS Chat where media partners can immediately see as well as emergency managers, etc. The problem is that a good percentage of users are not properly reporting, so the perception by some people is that it is a low-quality or poor tool. That is not the case, and reports have been getting more reviews now than anytime I can remember over the history of SN. Low quality reporters are being talked to and removed/banned.

You don't have to see dots if you don't want to. You can turn them off (reports only placefile) or use a Filtered Feed
You can report through the web or on radarscope

Many use it as a "look at me look at me" to be seen on a storm, but plenty use it to make good, high quality reports.
 
Jan 6, 2019
81
29
6
Tyler
The second thing you need to consider is - can you live with yourself if you don't report it and something bad happens. I've found that although I always report that when something bad happens I second guess myself. Knowing I made the report is helpful to me knowing I did everything I could have done.
@ James K,
This is the way you should be thinking.
So what if your not the first one to report it, it still helps to formulate a track of the storm.

Then back to what your report, there is a list items that you need to report.
Goto SN and look'em up.

I don't remember if you stated you were Skywarn Cert or not, but get it if not.
Go to any NWS web site and there is a link for Skywarn.
 

James K

EF2
Mar 26, 2019
170
69
6
Colorado
Thanks guys. that's some good info, and good points about reporting on a storm - whether by SN or one of the other methods mentioned.
I'm going to atleast go look around the SN website, maybe even take a try at the training. No matter, every bit of learning can be a good thing...and if I ever needed to make a report, I'd certainly want to do it correctly / have something that might actually be of value to someone.


Randy Jennings said:
The second thing you need to consider is - can you live with yourself if you don't report it and something bad happens.
this..um well I would hate to be the one saying (or rather keeping secret): "I saw that un-warned storm before it went on & hit that little town..."


Joe Cameron said:
I don't remember if you stated you were Skywarn Cert or not, but get it if not.
Go to any NWS web site and there is a link for Skywarn.
I'm not Skywarn certified, I only read the 2 Skywarn spotters guides found online.
I do remember seeing something about Skywarn classes this spring when looking at local forecasts on the weather.gov site.
Its something I might just have to consider when they do more next spring :)
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,527
2,190
21
St. Louis
stormhighway.com
With the recent developments at Twitter prompting me to delete my account there, I am getting back onto Spotter Network for reporting. Twitter is probably still OK for direct Tweeting at specific NWS offices, but the visibility of that tweet isn't going to be there any longer in terms of reaching more of the weather community base (TV mets, etc).
 
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John Wetter

SN President
Staff member
Dec 11, 2005
852
45
11
Maple Grove, MN
www.WxChaser.com
While I quite vigorously disagree with Jeff's assessment of SN somehow withering away (there's no data to support that assessment), I also have to understand I likely have some bias as well in the other direction. SpotterNetwork is still the fastest way to get your data in front of the NWS and others. The data is quality controlled with a review system and spotters whom submit bad reports are removed from the system. As popularity of the system increases, additional review and scrutiny are placed on reports; this is no different then the never-ending "bad chaser" threads that come up all the time.

We moved support for SN over to Stormtrack because frankly many people are already here that use are system and for those that don't, we thought that Stormtrack could also benefit from bringing new people in... A win-win for everyone. Besides, we needs another forum account for a single purpose?

We always welcome feedback and are currently in the process of gearing up for some exciting new things coming in 2020.
 
Jul 16, 2013
226
118
11
Joplin, MO
I don't chase as much as I use to, but even still to this day I utilize SN when I'm out chasing. Like many have said, it's quick, easy and gets your reports directly to those who will get that information out to the public. Being that it's completely free, there's absolutely no reason to not sign up and use SN while out chasing, or even storm spotting locally in your county.
 

Sarah B. Wood

Enthusiast
Oct 17, 2013
9
2
1
Warsaw, Indiana
James- I would strongly suggest going to a spotter training session put on by your local NWS office. For someone who is new to spotting, there is a plethora of information to be obtained at these sessions. I'm not sure if the other NWS offices do this, but my local office has an online training class they would like for us to go through before going to the actual training session. It helps to solidify the material presented during the training, and has plenty of photos for cloud identification reasons. The online training is offered through MET ED. It is free to join, and there are also other courses on there that may be of interest.
 
Jul 25, 2019
16
9
1
Minnesota
I was just looking for Skywarn classes last night. Those are the classes for NWS, correct? In my area, it seems that the classes run from about February to May, so I will have to wait until next year. I'm definitely excited to see what SN has. 👍
 
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James K

EF2
Mar 26, 2019
170
69
6
Colorado
@Sarah B. Wood
I definitely do plan to look into a Skywarn class from the local NWS office next year.
I don't remember seeing anything about online training when I saw info about the Skywarn classes this past spring (but I didn't look all that closely since at the time I wasn't sure if I wanted to go for a class. It also didn't seem like they had much info on the website)

@Christene G:
Yep, Skywarn is the NWS classes.
Basically same thing here, they only do the classes in spring. I believe that's pretty standard? (the idea being to get people ready for the upcoming severe weather season)
 

Sarah B. Wood

Enthusiast
Oct 17, 2013
9
2
1
Warsaw, Indiana
They do have the classes every spring, however our local NWS office is having spotter training in the fall for the first time. Here in Indiana we have a second tornado season of sorts in the fall, so autumn severe weather will be discussed along with winter weather.