National Weather Service and NOAA vs Trump

National Weather Service and NOAA vs Trump

The byline is perhaps fact vs fiction and revolves around the tweet put out by the National Weather Service.

What happened?

Least you missed it, here is how it all played out. On Sept 1st, the idiot-in-chief tweeted this warning about Hurricane Dorian …

One tiny flaw, Alabama was not at risk. The Alabama Weather Service folks did their job, and tweeted this about 20 minutes after the above tweet ..

Idiot-in-Chief then promptly throws a tantrum that somebody had dared to correct his fiction with facts. The Washington times reports this (within a 11th Sept article) …

President Trump told his staff that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration needed to deal with a tweet that seemed to contradict his statement that Hurricane Dorian posed a significant threat to Alabama as of Sept. 1, in contrast to what the agency’s forecasters were predicting at the time, senior administration officials said. This led chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to call Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to tell him to fix the issue, the officials said.

Trump had complained for several days about the issue, according to the senior officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Note that he “complained for several days about the issue“. The degree of insecurity in play is jaw dropping stuff.

The Sharpie Forecast

Here is Mr T on Sept 4th with his sharpie modified forecast …

Here is the altered forecast …

He has quite literally picked up one of his crayons and personally modified the official forecast to align with his 1st Sept tweet.

The Washington Post also explains what had been happening in the background (in a 7th Sept article) …

…The agency sent a similar message warning scientists and meteorologists not to speak out on Sept. 4, after Trump showed a hurricane map from Aug. 29 modified with a hand-drawn, half-circle in black Sharpie around Alabama.

“This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast,” the meteorologist said. “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. One of the things we train on is to dispel inaccurate rumors and ultimately that is what was occurring — ultimately what the Alabama office did is provide a forecast with their tweet, that is what they get paid to do.”…

National Weather Service Alabama gets thrown under the bus

This is what happens next …

In normal circumstances anybody sitting in that office would surround themselves with individuals who brief correctly with facts. Unfortunately, the current idiot-in-chief fires anybody who dares to question his random babbling or to correct anything he says, and so his staff are naturally selected over time to be completely dysfunctional and to never do that. If indeed he simply made a mistake, then again in normal circumstances this would be no big deal. This however is Trump – facts do not matter, and facts are “fake news”.

Now What?

As you might imagine there is a considerable degree of concern that weather forecasts are being politicised and altered. This is not acceptable.

There have been some responses.

Craig N. McLean statement

Craig N. McLean, the NOAA Administrator, has published the following statement. In it the gloves are off, he is not tolerating any of this BS and is very robustly supporting his staff in the NWS office ….

…The NWS Forecaster(s) corrected any public misunderstanding in an expert and timely way, as they should. There followed, last Friday, an unsigned press release from “NOAA” that inappropriately and incorrectly contradicted the NWS forecaster. My understanding is that this intervention to contradict the forecaster was not based on science but on external factors including reputation and appearance, or simply put, political. Our NOAA Scientific Integrity Policyand Code of Scientific Conduct make clear that all NOAA employees shall approach all scientific activities with honesty, objectively, and completely, without allegiance to individuals, organizations, or ideology. The content of this press release is very concerning as it compromises the ability of NOAA to convey life-saving information necessary to avoid substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. If the public cannot trust our information, or we debase our forecaster’s warnings and products, that specific danger arises. 

You know that the value of our science is in the complexity of our understanding, our ability to convey that understanding to a wide audience of users of this information, and to establish and sustain the public trust in the truth and legitimacy of that information. Unfortunately, the press release of last Friday violated this trust and violated NOAA’s policies of scientific integrity. In my role as Assistant Administrator for Research, and as I continue to administratively serve as Acting Chief Scientist, I am pursuing the potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity. Thankfully, we have such policies that are independently cited as among the best in the federal community, if not the best. Your NOAA and OAR management and leadership team believes in these policies and principles. I have a responsibility to pursue these truths. I will.

Now that is the stance that should have been taken from the start.

National Weather Service (NWS) Director Louis Uccellini also responds

Business Insider reports that he also stands by his staff and will not tolerate any of this political BS …

Speaking at an annual meeting of the National Weather AssociationMonday, Uccellini praised the scientists for upholding “the integrity of the forecasting process.”

“They did what any office would do,” Uccellini told the convention of meteorologists. “With an emphasis they deemed essential, they shut down what they thought were rumors. They quickly acted to reassure their partners, the media and the public — with strong language — that there was no threat.”

“They did that with one thing in mind: public safety,” Uccellini said.

“And they responded not knowing where this information was coming from. Only later, [when] the retweets and the politically based comments came into their office, did they learn the source of this information.”

… local emergency services had praised the NWS’ Birmingham office for the speed with which it corrected the rumors generated by the president’s claim

The Investigation

There was a clear abuse of power. Trump used his position to apply pressure to promote fiction and fear …

You can’t simply let that slide yet again, and so there will be a investigation …

Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology are launching an investigation into the Commerce Department’s involvement in NOAA’s unusual decision to side with Trump over its scientists.

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), chairwoman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee, sent a letter to Ross requesting information related to the department’s dealings with NOAA regarding Dorian.

The Science Committee, which has jurisdiction over NOAA, is requesting a briefing with Commerce Department staff who may have been involved in issuing instructions to NOAA that led to several directives being issued to Weather Service staff

The House Committee have issued a letter to Ross challenging his role in applying pressure to promote fiction and interfere in the normal running of the NWS …

“We are committed to supporting the activities of the NWS and its dedicated staff. During your Senate confirmation hearing, you committed to allowing federal scientists to ‘be free to communicate data clearly and concisely’ and that you would ‘not interfere with the release of factual scientific data,’ ”

Ross is now required to answer all their questions and explain himself by 20th Sep.

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