The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s acting chief scientist said in an email to colleagues Sunday that he is investigating whether the agency’s response to President Trump’s Hurricane Dorian tweets constituted a violation of NOAA policies and ethics. Also on Monday, the director of the National Weather Service broke with NOAA leadership over its handling of Trump’s Dorian tweets and statements.
In an email to NOAA staff that was obtained by The Washington Post, NOAA’s Craig McLean, called the agency’s response “political” and a “danger to public health and safety.”
Trump’s incorrect assertion on Sept. 1 that Alabama “would most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” set off a chain of confusion and outrage among the public and within NOAA. At the time, the NWS’s forecast guidance showed only a very small risk (about 5 percent) of tropical-storm-force winds for a small portion of Alabama. However, Alabama was not in the storm forecast track or “cone of uncertainty” from the National Hurricane Center, which showed Hurricane Dorian skirting the East Coast far away from Alabama.
While the NWS’s Birmingham office set the record straight, stating Alabama “would NOT see any impacts” from the storm, NOAA officials caused an internal uproar on Sept. 6 when the agency issued an unsigned statement that defended Trump’s false claim about Alabama and admonished the Weather Service’s Birmingham division for speaking “in absolute terms.” Acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs and NOAA communications director Julie Kay Roberts were involved in drafting Friday’s statement. [Continue reading…]
NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen said Monday, “NOAA’s policies on scientific integrity and communications are among the strongest in the federal government, and get high marks from third party observers. The agency’s senior career leaders are free to express their opinions about matters of agency operations and science. The agency will not be providing further official comment, and will not speculate on internal reviews.”
Meanwhile, another career civil servant, National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said forecasters in Birmingham did the right thing Sept. 1 when they tried to combat public panic and rumors that Dorian posed a threat to Alabama.
“They did that with one thing in mind: public safety,” said Uccellini, who prompted a standing ovation at a meeting of the National Weather Association by asking members of the Birmingham weather staff to stand. [Continue reading…]