SKYWARN Recognition Day Set for December 6
The 10th Annual SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) Special Event will take place Saturday, December 6, 2008. SRD is co-sponsored by the ARRL and the National Weather Service (NWS) as a way to recognize the commitment made by Amateur Radio operators in helping to keep their communities safe. According to SRD Coordinator David Floyd, N5DBZ, Amateur Radio operators can visit their local participating NWS office, working as a team to contact other hams across the world throughout the 24 hour event.
The idea for the first SRD took shape in the summer of 1999. Meteorologist-in-Charge of the Goodland, Kansas NWS office Scott Mentzer, N0QE, tried to find a way to recognize the valuable contributions storm spotters make to the National Weather Service. "Since many of those storm spotters were also hams," Floyd said, "it seemed like a natural fit for the recognition to be centered on Amateur Radio."
With the approval of NWS headquarters and a commitment to participate from many local NWS offices across the country, the first National Weather Service Special Event took place on November 27, 1999. "At the end of the event, an amazing 15,888 QSOs were logged, with contacts made to all 50 states and 63 countries," Floyd recounted. "The Des Moines forecast office took the honor of making the most contacts of any office that first year with 761 QSOs, and went on to lead the pack until 2003 by logging between 1300-1500 contacts each year!"
Floyd said that feedback from that first event was "overwhelmingly positive" from both the NWS staff and the local ham clubs: "Suddenly there was incentive for more NWS staffers to either obtain a license or upgrade so that more people could work ham radio during severe events. In addition, many club members had never visited an NWS office before. When they came for the special event, they learned the value of their reports and how they were used in conjunction with existing technology."
And so began an annual tradition. The following year, 85 of the 122 NWS offices -- almost 70 percent -- participated in the event, making nearly 24,000 QSOs. "Perhaps the most unusual contact occurred in 2000 was with an airliner 39,000 feet above Utah," Floyd said. "The pilot ended the QSO with a request for a 'spot weather forecast' for his arrival at Salt Lake City airport."
In 2001, the name of the event was changed to SKYWARN Recognition Day, a name Floyd said better relayed what the day was all about: "Each year since the inception of SRD, the number of NWS offices and local ham clubs participating has increased, until now more than 100 offices sign up each year to take part. The most contacts made during any SRD occurred in 2006 when -- thanks to the staff and local hams in the Grand Junction, Colorado area -- 1640 QSOs were logged!"
Station call signs have also changed over the years. Floyd said that some NWS offices and clubs apply for a special event call sign, "such as W3B in Brownsville or N0Y in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Other call signs hint at office location, including WX9GRB in Green Bay and WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center. Still others represent more of the big picture, as in KC0SKY in Pleasant Hill, Missouri."
Floyd said that as SKYWARN Recognition Day has grown throughout the years, he has seen a greater use of digital communications in addition to CW, RTTY and packet radio: "Each year, more and more contacts are being made using EchoLink, Winlink and the use of e-mail reflectors."
2008 SKYWARN Recognition Day will be held on December 6 from 0000 UTC-2400 UTC. Last year, contacts were made in all 50 states and 40 countries during the 24 hour event. If you haven't joined in the fun, make 2008 your year to do so!