NOAA as­sailed for de­fend­ing Trump’s Hurricane Dorian claim

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front - By SETH BORENSTEIN AP Science Writer

WASH­ING­TON — For­mer top of­fi­cials of the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion are as­sail­ing the agency for un­der­min­ing its weather fore­cast­ers as it de­fends President Don­ald Trump’s state­ment from days ago that Hurricane Dorian threat­ened Alabama.

They say NOAA’s ac­tion risks the cred­i­bil­ity of the na­tion’s weather and science agency and may even risk lives.

Dis­may came from those who served un­der Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic pres­i­dents alike as lead­ers in me­te­o­rol­ogy and dis­as­ter re­sponse sized up a sus­tained ef­fort by Trump and his aides to jus­tify his warn­ing that Alabama, among other states, was “most likely” to be hit hard by Dorian, con­trary to fore­casts show­ing Alabama was clear.

That ef­fort led NOAA to re­pu­di­ate a tweet from the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice the pre­vi­ous week­end as­sur­ing Alaba­mans — ac­cu­rately — that they had noth­ing to fear from the hurricane. The weather ser­vice is part of NOAA and the tweet came from its Birm­ing­ham, Alabama, of­fice.

“This rewrit­ing his­tory to sat­isfy an ego di­min­ishes NOAA,” El­bert “Joe” Fri­day, for­mer Repub­li­can-ap­pointed di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice, said on Face­book. He told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Satur­day: “We don’t want to get the point where science is de­ter­mined by pol­i­tics rather than science and facts. And I’m afraid this is an ex­am­ple where this is be­gin­ning to oc­cur.”

Alabama had never been in­cluded in hurricane ad­vi­sories and Trump’s in­for­ma­tion, based on less au­thor­i­ta­tive graph­ics than an of­fi­cial fore­cast, was out­dated even at the time.

In the tem­pes­tu­ous af­ter­math, some me­te­o­rol­o­gists spoke on so­cial me­dia of protest­ing when the act­ing NOAA chief, Neil Ja­cobs, is sched­uled to speak at a Na­tional Weather As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing Tues­day — in Huntsville, Alabama.

For­mer of­fi­cials saw a po­lit­i­cal hand at work in NOAA’s state­ment dis­avow­ing the Birm­ing­ham tweet. The state­ment was is­sued by an anony­mous “spokesper­son,” a de­par­ture from the norm for fed­eral agen­cies that em­ploy peo­ple to speak for them by name.

“This falls into such un­charted ter­ri­tory,” said W. Craig Fu­gate, who was Florida emer­gency man­age­ment chief un­der Repub­li­can Gov. Jeb Bush and di­rec­tor of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency un­der Demo­cratic President Barack Obama. “You have science or­ga­ni­za­tions putting out state­ments against their own of­fices. For the life of me I don’t think I would have ever faced this un­der President Obama or Gov­er­nor Bush.”

Jane Lubchenco, NOAA ad­min­is­tra­tor dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said: “It is truly sad to see po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees un­der­min­ing the su­perb, life-saving work of NOAA’s tal­ented and ded­i­cated ca­reer ser­vants. Sci­en­tific in­tegrity at a science agency mat­ters.”

The White House de­clined to com­ment Satur­day when asked if it had di­rected NOAA to re­lease the state­ment. NOAA of­fi­cials also didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. Af­ter spend­ing the morn­ing at his Vir­ginia golf club, Trump tweeted that he’d like to move on from the mat­ter but the news me­dia “won’t leave it alone.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

President Don­ald Trump looks at his notes Wed­nes­day dur­ing a brief­ing on Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Of­fice of the White House in Wash­ing­ton.

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