Quantcast

NOAA Officials Backed Trump’s False Dorian Claims Under Threat of Firing, Sources Say

Politics
President Donald Trump shows reporters a map of a predicted path of Hurricane Dorian following a briefing from officials in the Oval Office at the White House Sept. 4. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

On Monday, EcoWatch reported how National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials had sided with President Donald Trump's false claims that Hurricane Dorian would impact Alabama and against the National Weather Service (NWS) office that moved swiftly to correct the record. Now, new information reported by The New York Times Monday reveals that the NOAA officials acted out of fear for their jobs.


Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross threatened to fire political appointees at NOAA after the Birmingham, Alabama NWS tweeted a correction of President Trump's misleading Sept. 1 tweet listing Alabama among the states that would "likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated" by Dorian, three sources familiar with the situation told The New York Times.

Alabama was not in the storm's cone of uncertainty when the tweets were sent. But Ross's threat prompted NOAA to issue a controversial statement Friday supporting the President's claims over the Birmingham forecasters' assertion that Alabama would "NOT see any impacts" from the storm. NOAA's statement pointed to a small chance that tropical-storm-force winds would reach a small portion of the state.

The New York Times explained how that statement came to be:

Mr. Ross phoned Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where the secretary was traveling for meetings and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency's perceived contradiction of the president.

Dr. Jacobs objected to the demand and was told that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed, according to the three individuals, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the episode.

The Commerce Department, which oversees NOAA, denied the three sources' claims.

"The New York Times story is false," a spokesman told NPR in an email. "Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about Hurricane Dorian."

But the fallout from Friday's statement is leading to internal investigations and even a call for Ross to resign from Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), who serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

"His direct attacks on the scientists and federal employees, whom he threatened to fire for doing their jobs by accurately reporting the weather, are an embarrassing new low for a member of this Cabinet which has been historically venal and incompetent," Beyer said in a statement reported by NPR.

Friday's NOAA statement is the subject of an investigation by the Commerce Department's Office of Inspector General, The New York Times reported. NOAA's acting chief scientist Craig McLean also said he would investigate the statement to see if it violated the agency's policies and ethics, according to a Sunday email obtained by The Washington Post.

"The NWS Forecaster(s) corrected any public misunderstanding in an expert and timely way, as they should," McLean wrote in the email. "There followed, last Friday, an unsigned news 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."

NWS Director Louis Uccellini also broke with NOAA leadership to defend the Birmingham team at a meteorology conference in Huntsville, Alabama Monday. He asked all NWS members to stand and earned a minute-long standing ovation for his remarks and for the Birmingham office's actions.

"They did what any office would do," Uccellini said. "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."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A Starbucks barista prepares a drink at a Starbucks Coffee Shop location in New York. Ramin Talaie / Corbis via Getty Images

By Cathy Cassata

Are you getting your fill of Starbucks' new Almondmilk Honey Flat White, Oatmilk Honey Latte, and Coconutmilk Latte, but wondering just how healthy they are?

Read More
Radiation warning sign at the Union Carbide uranium mill in Rifle, Colorado, in 1972. Credit: National Archives / Environmental Protection Agency, public domain

By Sharon Kelly

Back in April last year, the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency decided it was "not necessary" to update the rules for toxic waste from oil and gas wells. Torrents of wastewater flow daily from the nation's 1.5 million active oil and gas wells and the agency's own research has warned it may pose risks to the country's drinking water supplies.

Read More
Sponsored
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a "Friday for Future" youth demonstration in a street of Davos on Jan. 24, 2020 on the sideline of the World Economic Forum annual meeting. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pretended not to know who Greta Thunberg is, and then he told her to get a degree in economics before giving world leaders advice, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of forest fire smoke hovering over North America on Aug. 15, 2018. NASA Earth Observatory

New York City isn't known for having the cleanest air, but researchers traced recent air pollution spikes there to two surprising sources — fires hundreds of miles away in Canada and the southeastern U.S.

Read More
If temperatures continue to rise, the world is at risk from global sea-level rise, which will flood many coastal cities as seen above in Bangladesh. NurPhoto / Contributor / Getty Images

The mounting climate emergency may spur the next global financial crisis and the world's central banks are woefully ill equipped to handle the consequences, according to a new book-length report by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), as S&P Global reported. Located in Basel, Switzerland, the BIS is an umbrella organization for the world's central banks.

Read More