Guam: Tropical Experiences

Welcome to Guam: Tropical Experiences! I am starting a new job as a entry-level meteorologist in the National Weather Service, and the forecast office that hired me was the Guam forecast office! I had several people ask me to stay in touch and tell them about my experiences, so I have decided to start this blog on my website to do just that. While I am in Guam, if you want to message me email and social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp would be your best choice. As always you can find my email at the bottom of this page in the footer. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

Note: As each blog tab gets longer I will start to place the newest post for the current month on top so it will be easy to find. Once I make a new post or the month ends, it will be put in its rightful place.



First Day

Hello everyone! I made it to Guam last night and have begun my manatory quarantine. So far I cannot complain about the food or the view from my hotel window, and do not get me started on the weather! first day of registration and training for my job at the NWS begins tomorrow, so today is my only day where I can just sit back and relax which is the only thing I can do as I cannot leave my hotel room. I hope to have more experiences and photos to share as I get established and can explore the island after my quarantine ends!

Day 5

I have made it to day 5 and I will admit I am getting bored of my room but I still can't complain about the view as it treated me with a rainbow this morning. I also still can't really complain about the food. I will say some of the meals are mainly fish which is not my favorite food type, but I not paying for the food so I will eat anything.

Not much to report about my job as paperwork is still be processed and I cannot do much during quarantine. Also, internet at the hotel is poor so I haven't been able to do much online anyways which includes updating my website. Thank you for reading and I look foward to sharing more in the future.



Out of the Hotel

I finally got out of the hotel on Saturday (January 16) and have relocated to an Airbnb nearby until I can get an apartment. The guy who runs the Airbnb also rents out cars so I am renting one during my stay until I can buy a used car. When I was being dropped off at the Airbnb I noticed that Guam's roads and parking lots reminded me of Europe's roads and parking in some ways. First, the side roads and less busy highways of Guam feel narrower than what I am used to, so it can feel crowded when moving down certain streets. Second, parking in Guam can be limited in certain locations like in Europe so some places have over come it by placing parking lots on top of roofs of buildings. People treat them like parking garages and walk to the store that they want to go to nearby. Since Guam is in a region of typhoon (hurricane) development most building are required to be made of concrete and can support the extra weight.

It feels good to be out and about, but I know very little about Guam so getting around is difficult. Since none of the cell carriers on the mainland are on Guam my phone is useless with out WiFi so apps that I use for GPS navigation won't work unless I want to turn on roaming which would get expensive. So, it is a good thing I improved my skill of looking at a map and then being able to visualize it will driving or I would be lost by now. I was able to use that skill on the day I got out to drive to a cell provider and buy a cheap phone and a prepaid sim card, so I could have data to use Google Maps on longer trips. Today, I tested the phone out and made a short trip to a nearby beach to take a couple of photos and explore a little bit. I did not stay long because the beach was somewhat crowded and I dislike high humidity and sunlight, but I told Uncle Ralph that I would take some photos and it seemed like he wanted pictures from the beach though maybe the scenery was not what he had in mind 😉. The two pictures were taken at Gov. Joseph Flores Beach Park (Ypao Beach Park) and I hope you enjoy them. Tomorrow, I meet with a realtor to start looking at apartments so I am always busy with something nowadays.

In this photo see the stretch of land in the background? I believe it is Puntan Dos Amantes (Two Lover’s Point) which appears in the emblem of Guam's flag. Two Lover's Point to the native Chamorros repsents a story of true but forbidden love and in that story the woman and man tied their hair together and jumped off that point. I recommend reading the full story by clicking on this link: read the legend. I heard of the legend on a televison channel about Guam in the hotel I was staying in, and as soon as I took the picture I remembered the story of the emblem on Guam's flag and realized what I was looking at.




Work: First Experiences

Hello everyone! I hope you are doing well and the cold weather back in the states is not to bad. I have been working at the NWS forecast office in Guam for one month now and I thought I would share what my typical duties are and share some unique experiences that I was lucky enough to take part in. Currently I am training as a HMT or Hydrometeorological Technician. The position of HMT is being absorbed into the journeyman meteorologist postition as the HMT/upper air desk is slowly being transformed to a public desk where we will eventually take over much of the social media and public communication. This change requires forecasters to staff this desk to effectively communicate updated forecasts and information in a timely manner.

As a HMT I am responsible for data collection such as launching radiosondes for upper air measurements, checking the status of our radar and inputing enviromental winds into the radar, fire weather, calling our partners to obtain surf observations, and aiding forecasters in transmitting forecasts over NOAA Weather Radio. The duty I was most excited to learn in Guam was upper air and launching radiosondes, which also is my first task during the day shift.

Not every NWS office launches weather balloons but when I was attending OU I had the opportunity to watch the NWS Norman office launch weather balloons a couple of times and I always wanted to become certified in upper air. We are about to change systems soon, so I am one of the last people to be certified on the old system before the new once is installed in September. In the states many stations are becoming automatic while in the Pacific our new system will still be manual but it will change the radiosonde and software we use. I am having fun learing how to tie the balloon and prepare the radiosonde and station antenna for launch and then launching the radiosonde. The data collected from the radiosonde is used to create a skew-T log P diagram, calibrate the radar's enviromental winds, and initiate weather models. I have included a short video of me launching a balloon so you can see what the balloon and radiosonde look like. I do want to point out the balloon is filled with hydrogen and the rope that attaches the radiosonde to the balloon is 80 feet long so if I look stiff its because I am trying not to get tangled to a balloon filled with hydrogen.

The main goal right when I launch the balloon is to make sure the balloon and radiosonde rise quickly so it does not hit the ground, fence, or trees near our property while also making sure the system detected the launch and can track the radiosonde. I also make sure no planes are approaching the runway before I launch the balloon since we are right next to the airport. To accomplish that last task we make sure to call the air traffic tower before each launch to get clearance to launch.

Once the ballon is launched I monitor the flight to insure we are collecting data while also moving on to other task such as recording the rainfall in our 8-inch rain guage and measuring the moisture in our fire sicks to determine fuel and fire risk. I also keep an eye on the ASOS station readout to make sure the sensors are working and that the airport tower is signed in and the station is not in auto mode. If the tower is not signed in that means they may not be monitoring or able to monitor the data from the ASOS and may not be aware of changing weather conditions such as wind speed or visiblilty.

Guam is currently in its dry season so not much is happening in terms of weather. This does not mean work is boring as this calm break before the wet season the return of the risk of typhoons allows us to accomplish some outreach. Recently, I got the chance to join my coworkers Bryan and Edwin on a trip around the island to meet with our Cooperative Observer Program (COOP) partners that help provide surf and rain obs and also see some of the remote sites that measure rainfall with a weighted bucket that can store data for two months before needing to be downloaded. Bryan has been in this office for about two years now but has been doing weather obervations for the military and then the NWS before becomine a forecaster here. Edwin was hired around the same time I was and arrived in Guam in November. On our trip around the island we were lucky enough to visit the doppler radar that we use on the island and is maintained by the U.S. Air Force. Our doppler radar broken down at the end of January and the maintaince crew was kind enough to let us join them in inspecting the radar. I thought I would never climb so many stairs again after I graduated from OU as the climb felt like I started from the first floor of the National Weather Center and climbed the stairs to the O-Deck on the top of the building. However, I cannot complain as I had an oppurtunity to go inside the radar, a rare treat indeed. Since the radar is offline it has prevented me from inputting envrionmental winds into the radar system as part of my duties. Unlike radar in the states that can update the vertical wind profile from the RAP model, Guam is outside the models area of prediction so we must manually enter the vertical wind profile that we measure from our balloon launches.

1 / 7
I have the largest smile under the mask
2 / 7
The view just below the radar dome
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inside the radar dome
4 / 7
Say hi to Edwin
5 / 7
Bryan really enjoyed showing me the sites.
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Enjoying the view of the ocean before visititng Commerical Port.
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We found a mantis this time when checking the rain guage but I have also found small lizards as well.

What has Joshua Been Doing?

I cannot believe I been in Guam for about three months now. I am enjoying my job, but I will admit at times I wish I was closer to home so I could easily meet up with friends or family as I do miss our board game/D&D sessions, catching up with people I have not seen in a while, or listening to grandparents telling their stories. However, this post is not to focus on what I want to do when I finally get to use home leave but instead I want to share what I am doing while in Guam.

Most of my time at work has been focused on getting me trained on HMT duties but that will soon come to an end if I can pass the test scheduled for March 23rd and finally be certified to work the HMT/Public desk by myself. Once I pass I will move on to forecaster training and certification. Besides the main duties of being a meteorologist, I am also working on my focal points that I been assigned. Focal Points are duties we are assigned and become the main point of contact for such duties or functions if other need something done or need help. Example, one of my focal points is the NWS Guam webpage. I am basically co-webmaster alongside Edwin, so if changes need to be made to the website we are the point of contact. Other focal points I am part of are storm data and radar (WSR-88D). In storm data I will make notes of the timeline of hazardous weather events and note any damage, fatalites, and other notable facts related to the event. As a radar focal point it will be my duty to work with maintance teams to note any issues with the radar and make sure it is operating correctly during all types of weather events.

Working on a website other than my personal one feels great as I have mentioned before it is a relativly new skill of mine that I honed by making the OWL website. Feel free to explore the NWS Guam website and let me know how easy it is to use and what improvements can be made.

NWS Guam Website

 

Outside of work I have also been helping my friend Nolan Meister transfer his blog to the same server as my website with its own domain name. He needed to move his blog because he had already used up the 5 GB of storage OU Create gives its students to make their own website. I feel I owe a great debt to Nolan because he was the one who allowed me to be the Director of Development for OWL during my senior year of college and with out that experience I probably would not be where I am now. Reading Nolan's blog also encouraged me to start my own blog, and if you enjoy my blog you will enjoy his blog because his writing style is fantasic. His posts are highly detailed and flow so naturally that they make you feel like you are recalling your own memories.

The Times and Travels of Nolan - Documenting trips I’ve taken and places I’ve seen.

First Hike and Exploration

Thursday, March 4th was a beautiful day and one of my coworkers, Nick, had invited me to join him and his lovely wife, Ashley, on a hike to Mount Lamlam which is the highest point on Guam. The day before the hike I was able to get by first dose of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 and though I felt fine the day I got the shot, I woke up with a small headache. I decided the headache was not too bad and I decided to go on the hike. I met Nick and Ashley at the parking lot at the entrance to the trail head and we began the climb. As we began the climb it enforced my belief that the southern part of the island is the most beautiful part of the island with the view of the ocean.

The trail to Mount Lamlam starts out steep so it does not give novice hikers like myself any opportunity to ease into the hike. The fact that my headache from the morning had increased along with a stiffness in my arm made the hike difficult and I began to feel lightheaded halfway up the trail. Nick and Ashely were gracious enough to notice me struggling and suggested we turn back and explore other sites near the area.

Just east of Mount Lamlam sits what is left of old Spanish fort called Fort Soledad. I do not know much about the fort but it is a reminder of a period in Guam's history when imperalism and colonialism was the goal of western nations.

After we left the fort we drove around admiring the ocean as we went to finish our adventure with a delicious lunch. I am thankful that Nick and Ashley allowed me to join them on the hike and showed me some sites on the islands. I look forward to our next hike.

War in the Pacific Tour

The weekend after the hike with Nick and Ashley, I decided to visit two of the four of the historical parks that showed where American forces landed and traveled on Guam to attack the Japanese forces on Guam and continue the task of island hopping across the Pacific and finding an airfield that would reach Japan. The landing point of American forces was Asan beach. This beach has a long coast that is shallow as you go into the ocean and it leads to a large flat plain that could be used as drop off point of equipment and soldiers. Like the beaches of Normandy, France when you walk the beach and look out into the ocean it feels peaceful in the moment but when you think what it would be like to land on this beach and have to run across this stretch of flat land under fire brings chills.



The other park I visited was Agat and this park was very peaceful as I was the only person there as tourism is nearly nonexistant due to the affects of the pandemic. This park also sits next to the ocean, but some of the weapons that were once on this beach still remain and are maintained to remind people that war once took place in this peaceful place.

Inbetween these two parks is the vistor's center just outside the navy base. Due to Covid-19 it is closed but the real draw to the center is the Japanese two-man submarine that sits outside.



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