I'm a private weather industry business leader with 18 years of applied operations, sales and marketing experience. 

SKYWARN is aging

Saturday was SKYWARN Recognition Day, an event co-sponsored by ARRL and the National Weather Service to highlight the efforts of volunteers who serve as field spotters and communications specialists during times of adverse weather. Amateur Radio is the primary source of communication and the SKYWARN program, in part, serves as a backup should traditional comm systems fail.

During the event, various NWS offices posted images of operators making point to point contacts, a primary exercise during SRD. One thing I noticed right away was the aging demographic of net controllers. Plenty of gray hair, basically. Here's a sampling:

That was then, this is now
For a few years I served as SKYWARN Net Controller in the NWS Tulsa office. I was a pup; probably operating the radios there from age 16 to about 23 years of age alongside other older operators. I was likely the youngest SKYWARN net controller on the air during that period (1993'ish) and since then I have not come across many young people in that position. Seeing the older faces and gray hair got me wondering about the future of SKYWARN.  Is getting a radio license no longer something young people are doing? Are younger individuals simply not interested in taking on a demanding role in a volunteer capacity?

A look at the numbers
Taking a look at the graph here will certainly reinforce the fact that radio is not dying. It's important to note though that drastic changes in the test question pool over the years has had a huge impact. No longer do you need to know how to decode color banded axial lead resistors or figure dummy load tolerances in order to key up as a "Tech". Now Amateur Radio tests are more about the rules and regulations in place to operate on various bands.

I was wrong
Increasing numbers is fabulous for the hobby but my question is still not answered and I'm not sure it can be. I fully expected to research and find a decline in number of operators and that this blog would go in a completely different direction. Instead, there are more operators than ever yet those involved in most SKYWARN activities are in their mid to upper years. Perhaps some of you will comment with your perceived reasoning for the cause.

SKYWARN™ Recognition Day (SRD) provides a venue for National Weather Service (NWS) offices to recognize Amateur ("ham") Radio operators for their commitment in helping keep their communities weathersafe. During every tropical weather threat, and many other major weather events, Amateur Radio operators staff local NWS and American Red Cross shelters and stand ready to provide emergency communications should standard services fail or become overloaded. Many Amateur Radio operators are also trained as SKYWARN™ weather spotters by local NWS offices, to provide valuable information during hazardous weather situations. Often, these spotter reports allow NWS meteorologists to issue severe weather warnings with greater advance notice and confidence than would otherwise be possible.

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