Barnegat Grad a Typhoon Tracker in Hawaii

Mar 06, 2019
Photo by: Rusty Pang

When he graduated from Barnegat High School in 2017, Ethan Carrodus was very certain about his future plans. He followed the footsteps of his father and grandfather and enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

Carrodus was also fascinated by weather, and he is putting that interest to good use while stationed at  the Joint Typhoon Warning Center at Pearl Harbor. As an aerographer’s mate, Carrodus is responsible for forecasting and tracking typhoons in the Indian and Western Pacific oceans.

With numerous ships, submarines and airplanes deployed in the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s area of operations, sailors stationed at the facility make it their primary mission to monitor extreme weather conditions in support of the fleet’s daily operations.

The origins of the JTWC can be traced back to June 1945, when the Fleet Weather Center/Typhoon Tracking Center was established on the island of Guam after multiple typhoons had caused a significant loss of men and ships. At the time it was one of three Navy and two Air Force units responsible for tropical cyclone reconnaissance and warnings in the Pacific.

In the ensuing decades, its responsibilities and its area of coverage increased. It was relocated to Pearl Harbor on Jan. 1, 1999. During October 2011, its name changed from the Naval Maritime Forecast Center/Joint Typhoon Warning Center to just the Joint Typhoon Warning Center when it became a stand-alone command for the first time in its 52-year history.

Carrodus said typhoons and hurricanes are the same weather phenomenon known as tropical cyclones, which is a generic term used by meteorologists to describe a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has closed, low-level circulation.

“Typhoons are really hurricanes that form in the Pacific,” said the airman. “Typhoons also happen more frequently than hurricanes. On an average, we could get 40 to 50 of them a year. That’s because the warmer water in the Pacific creates more favorable conditions for storms to form.”

He said the most severe one he tracked was one that had sustained winds of around 140 mph. That would pale in comparison to Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines in 2013 with sustained winds up to 195 mph with gusts as high as 235 mph. Approximately 6,300 people were confirmed dead.

“But you have to face the possibility of something like that happening again,” said Carrodus. “Again, it is a specialized job and a very small percentage of people actually get to do it. I help the forecasters in tracking the storms in areas of interest. It’s a pretty cool job.”

According to the Navy, the U.S. Pacific Fleet is the world’s largest fleet command, encompassing 100 million square miles, nearly half the Earth’s surface, from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and from the West Coast of the U.S. into the Indian Ocean. Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Carrodus is most proud of earning the geophysical technician qualification.

The Pacific is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population, many of the world’s largest and smallest economies, several of the world’s largest militaries, and many U.S. allies. The Navy has been pivotal in helping maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region for decades.

Carrodus also has an interest in history and at Pearl Harbor he sees daily reminders of the Dec. 7, 1941 “Day of Infamy” when 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft bombed Pearl Harbor, sending the U.S. into World War II. Nearly 190 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.

“Every day I walk by several memorials,” he said. “It makes me stop and think and reflect on what happened here.”

His stay in Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without some surfing jaunts. But he doesn’t see any of the monster surfing waves known to hit the islands.

“At the North Shore, there are 25- to 30-footers,” he said. “Where I am, the biggest are usually around 5 or 6 feet. But they still present a challenge.”

Weatherwise, the temperature doesn’t change much.

“The hottest I’ve seen is around 90 and the lowest during the day was around 75,” Carrodus said. “Sunshine is almost constant.”

Carrodus said he is proud to be part of the Navy as it takes on a new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the national defense strategy.

When he finishes his Navy tour, he is looking at a career in cyber-security. But for the time being, Carrodus said he “has a self-purpose thing going on right now.”

“Serving in the Navy gives me a purpose and pride in life,” he reflected.

— Eric Englund




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