Meteorologist-in-chief? NOAA staff warned in September 1 directive not to contradict Trump

September 10, 2019

The POTUS is reaping the whirlwind in Washington, DC, as Hurricane Dorian weakens to a tropical storm and exits Canada.

Indeed, President Donald Trump has continued to insist loudly and implacably within the past few days that a map of the projected path of Hurricane Dorian showed that Alabama “would most likely be hit” by the storm.

To prove his point, the president had gone so far as to redraw the official map of the storm’s footprint with his own Sharpie on September 4—and had sent out a volley of tweets within the past week.

Rather than allowing the controversy to persist, a top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) official warned his staff not to contradict the White House, The Washington Post reported.

Referencing archived hurricane advisories, the NOAA official said that information provided to the president and the public between August 28 and September 2 “demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

He told NOAA staff to “only stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon.” They were also told not to “provide any opinion,” according to a copy of the email obtained by The Washington Post.

A NOAA meteorologist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution told the Post that the note, understood internally to be referring to Trump, came after the National Weather Service office in Birmingham contradicted Trump by tweeting Alabama would “NOT see any impacts from the hurricane.”

The Birmingham office sent the tweet after receiving a flurry of phone calls from concerned residents following Trump’s message.

The agency sent a similar message warning scientists and meteorologists not to speak out on September 4, after Trump showed the doctored hurricane map.mu

“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.”

The NOAA statement set off a firestorm among scientists, who attacked NOAA officials for bending to Trump’s will.“This looks like classic politically motivated obfuscation to justify inaccurate statements made by the boss. It is truly sad to see political appointees undermining the superb, lifesaving work of NOAA’s talented and dedicated career servant,” Jane Lubchenco, who served as NOAA administrator under President Barack Obama, told the Post..

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *