Background & Mission

UNL Weatherfest and Science Spectacular

Our mission is to increase the weather, climate, and science literacy of the public through two activities taking place on the same day at the Nebraska Innovation Conference Center.

  1. an annual symposium which brings weather and climate experts to our community,
  2. weather, climate and science educational exhibits.

A unique aspect of the Weatherfest event has been its ability to bring together different organizations and agencies under one roof to help the public be better prepared to deal with the extremes we experience in weather and climate.

It is the commitment of Weatherfest to create an event that puts weather and climate information  into as many homes and businesses in the region as possible and this is accomplished by making this a "free admission" family activity. A total of 2,400 under people, of all ages, typically attend the Annual Weatherfest and there is also extensive media coverage of the event. 

Weatherfest and Science Spectacular  is proud to be a designated  NOAA" Weather-Ready Nation" Ambassador event. WRN Ambassadors (like our Weatherfest) serve a pivotal role in affecting societal change — helping to build a nation that is ready, responsive, and resilient to the impacts of extreme weather and water events  Weatherfest embraces the core goal of a Weather Ready Nation “Together we will inform and empower communities, businesses, and people to make pre-event decisions that can be life-saving and prevent or limit devastating economic losses. We are a nation of many communities, and it is only through connected communities that we will achieve this goal”.

The next event, our 20th, is scheduled for all day Saturday, October 8, 2022 and will focus on recent weather and climate extremes.

Free to the Public

The Weatherfest and Science Spectacular is brought to the public as a free community educational outreach event. It is our commitment to create an event that puts severe weather information into as many homes and businesses in the region as possible and this is accomplished by making this a "Free Admission" family activity. Recognizing that we should not charge the public when it comes to learning about severe weather safety, we have in the past and will in the future continue to bring this event to the public free of charge.

Our History

The Origin of this event began with the Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium (CPSWS) held in Omaha on August 28, 1999 at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center in downtown Omaha, NE. The original planning committee members represented Omaha REACT, the National Weather Service in Omaha, Omaha television weathercasters and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln meteorology faculty.

The planning committee moved the event the following year to Lincoln, Nebraska where it remains to this day.

The second Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium (CPSWS 2000) was held on October 7, 2000 in Hardin Hall, East Campus, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The CPSWS 2000 organizing committee invited the High Plains Chapter of the National Weather Association (NWA) to hold their annual meeting October 4-6, 2000 in Hardin Hall immediately preceding CPSWS 2000. A banquet was held on the evening of October 6, 2000 to honor the distinguished career of storm researcher Dr. Chuck Doswell.

This banquet served as a lead-in to the first CPSWS held in Lincoln, NE. The UNL Student Local AMS Chapter joined with the Omaha Offutt Local AMS Chapter on this evening to have their first ever joint meeting. Several of the speakers who participated in the NWA meeting during the week remained in Lincoln and spoke at the CPSWS Symposium on the following day October 7, 2000.

Rebranded as the Family Weatherfest

The Chair of the CPSWS Program Committee attended the national American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual meeting in Orlando, FL, in January 2002 and participated in the first ever national AMS public Weatherfest. After observing the success of the AMS Weatherfest in Orlando, FL, the CPSWS/Weatherfest Planning Committee decided to include some weather education exhibits known as a Family Weatherfest at these annual events with our first Weatherfest activities taking place in March 2002. The auditorium was used for CPSWS symposium focused on severe weather and the area outside the auditorium was used for Weatherfest educational exhibits.

The Weatherfest component of the event continues to grow each year, attracting many families with K-12 students in their household. Weatherfest events have included weather-balloon launches, tornado generators, search and rescue teams with equipment on-site, interactive displays for question/answers about weather, weather science exhibits, etc., all with the common purpose of educating children and parents alike about the many aspects of weather and climate science. The name "CPSWS, Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium" has recently been dropped and replaced with a more generic name, the "Severe Weather Symposium". It is anticipated that the Auditorium severe weather symposium and Weatherfest exhibits will run alongside each other into the future. Weatherfest has grown to as many as 60 indoor exhibits and a dozen exhibits outside the conference center. 

The Scheduling of the Weather Symposium and Weatherfest

The first two CPSWS events were held in September and October. The CPSWS planning committee then decided to move the annual CPSWS event to each Spring so that it would coincide with the start of the spring severe weather season. The time interval between October 2000 and March 2001 was considered to be too short to schedule the next CPSWS right away. The next CPSWS was held 17 months later on March 30, 2002 and included an expanding number of Weatherfest exhibits.

There was no event in 2003 due to lack of funding for the event. However, CPSWS and Weatherfest returned again in Spring 2004 and was offered on a annual basis each Spring from 2004 through 2019.

A request was made by the Director of Lancaster County Emergency Management to have the annual CPSWS event each Spring coincide with and incorporate the annual Spotter Training Workshop for Lancaster County.

CPSWS 2004 included, for the first time, the Lancaster County Spotter Training Workshop. CPSWS and the Weatherfest continued to be scheduled in the spring along with the annual spotter training and it was scheduled near the time of the annual spring Nebraska state-wide severe weather awareness week.

The event had to be scheduled off campus for three years (2004-2006) while Hardin Hall was being completely renovated.

As noted below, the event took place in three area High Schools in Lincoln, before returning to Hardin Hall in March 2007.

The listing of the Event dates, locations, and photo galleries from each event are listed below. The number of speakers each year at the weather symposium varied with a variety of styles. For example, in 2005, the focus was on the Hallam, Nebraska tornado that had occurred the previous year and we had more speakers than usual but for much shorter presentation times.

In 2007 we only had four presenters, however, Roger Edwards gave two one-hour presentations, one on the safety of large venues during severe weather and another presentation focusing on advanced spotter techniques.

In 2022, as we came out of the Pandemic, the Weather Symposium and Weatherfest were moved to the Fall from the Spring. Note the first ever event was held in Omaha in August 1999 and the second event in 2000, the first in Lincoln, was held in October as well.

Event Locations

  • 2022: (October 8) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE---- Cancelled
  • 2021: (April 10) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE ---- Cancelled
  • 2020: (April 4) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE ---- Cancelled
  • 2019: (April 6) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE
  • 2018: (April 7) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE
  • 2017: (April 1) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE
  • 2016: (April 16) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2015: (April 11) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2014: (April 5) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2013: (April 6) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2012: (March 31) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2011: (April 9) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2010: (March 27) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2009: (April 4) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2008: (March 28) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2007: (March 24) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2006: (April 1) at Southwest High School, Lincoln, NE
  • 2005: (March 19) at East High School, Lincoln, NE 
  • 2004: (March 20) at North Star High School, Lincoln, NE
  • 2002: (March 30) in Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2000: (October 7) in Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 1999: (August 28) at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center, Omaha, NE


The huge success of the Weather Symposium and Weatherfest is the result of forming some strong partnerships within the University, as well as in the community. The National Weather Service, Omaha-Valley, Nebraska was associated with the initial CPSWS event in 1999 and continues to be associated with this annual event as a valuable partner helping us promote severe weather safety education. The High Plains Regional Climate Center, National Drought Mitigation Center and the School of Natural Resources at UNL have played an important role in supporting the annual CPSWS and Family Weatherfest. The College of Arts and Sciences became the home for this event in the Spring of 2017. The Departments of Geography and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and their students have been very helpful in making this event happen on an annual basis. The Lancaster County Office of Emergency Management and the Lincoln Amateur Radio Club are valuable partners who have helped organize the annual Storm Spotter Training Workshops since March 2004. The CPSWS and Weatherfest have also been able to create a partnership with the local television broadcast meteorologists on an annual basis with our "Meet the Weathercasters" event within the Weatherfest. We recognize the important media partnership in disseminating severe weather information and severe weather safety education to the public. Finally, KLIN radio has had a partnership with our event for many years and they graciously bring the organizer of this event into the radio studio the morning before Weatherfest to help promote the event to the public. 

Media Gallery

Video and Photo Galleries for the past events

2020 Event Poster  Event Posters Previous Years 

Weather Ready Nation Ambassador graphic

Weatherfest is proud to be a "Weather-Ready Nation" Ambassador event