Storm Spotters' Handbook


This booklet is based on the Severe Weather Watcher Handbook by kind permission of the Atmospheric Environment Service (AES) of Canada. The text has been modified by the Bureau of Meteorology to reflect Australian conditions and local pictures have been supplied by the photographers credited in the text.

This booklet focuses mainly on warm season (i.e. September-April) thunderstorms in the mid-latitudes of Australia (south of around 25 degrees latitude). Although most of the photographs show examples from eastern Australia, they are generally representative of the types of thunderstorms throughout the remainder of the country. However, severe thunderstorms with some different characteristics often occur in the tropics during the wet season and in the south of the continent during the winter months.

Lightning strikes out ahead of severe thunderstorm clouds near Ruthven

Photo 1. Lightning strikes out ahead of severe thunderstorm clouds near Ruthven,
on the New South Wales upper north coast, at 8 pm on 10 December 2008. Hail
measuring six centimetres in diameter fell near Lismore and Grafton, photograph by David Ellem.

We dedicate this booklet to volunteer storm spotters throughout Australia in appreciation of their important contribution to the Bureau of Meteorology's Severe Thunderstorm Warning Service. An understanding of the material presented here is not necessary for your duties. However, we do hope the text and supporting photographs will fuel your interest in this complex but fascinating aspect of our natural world and help explain some of the features of severe thunderstorms that you may encounter.

Next: Introduction