Here are a few tips from Beau Dodson, of the Southern Illinois Weather Observatory, to help you become a serious weather watcher:
Buy a weather radio
Your first priority might be to protect your family from dangerous storms. Buying an inexpensive weather radio with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology is the first step. These handheld and desktop radios cost $20–$50 and can be set to alert you to specific types of weather warnings and isolate the warnings by county and region. They automatically give you warnings directly from the National Weather Service.
Load a weather app on your smartphone
When you’re on the go, mobile phone weather apps will keep you informed of impending storms. There are many choices, but Dodson’s favorites are iMap Weather Radio and Storm Shield Weather Radio. For a modest download price, these apps will wake up your mobile phone and alert you with push notifications. The NWS offers its own free app that can be downloaded at a number of websites.
Set up a digital weather station
A capable weather station to measure temperature, wind speed and direction, precipitation, barometric pressure, and humidity costs $100 to $300, with professional models available for $1,000 to $2,000. The units include an outdoor sensor device and wireless indoor console, as well as software to connect to your home computer and stream readings online.
Get observer training
Two weather observation networks offer free training to volunteer observers. The NWS Cooperative Observer Program was established in 1890 and is coordinated through 121 Weather Forecast Stations across the country. Observers report daily temperatures and precipitation totals by computer. For more information, go to www.nws.noaa.gov and search for program information.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) reports precipitation totals to the Colorado Climate Center. Among its sponsors are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). For more information on getting involved, go to www.cocorahs.org.