NY Times: Wilbur Ross Threatened Firings at NOAA

NOAA scientist Agency likely broke science integrity rules for chastising office that contradicted Trump

The secretary of commerce threatened to fire top employees at the federal scientific agency responsible for weather forecasts last Friday after the agency's Birmingham, Alabama, office contradicted President Donald Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion. The acting chief scientist at Noaa, Craig McLean, said the agency probably violated its scientific integrity rules by doing so. At one point, he even displayed a map in the Oval Office, which appeared to be altered with black marker in order to show the storm's projected path extending to the southern edge of Alabama.

That statement prompted widespread backlash from scientists, who assailed NOAA for conceding to Trump and undermining its experts during a weather emergency.

"From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama", a NOAA spokesman said in a statement Friday evening.

Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator, told a meteorology group a Noaa statement that criticized the Birmingham-area forecast office after it disagreed with the president was meant to clarify "technical aspects" about Dorian's potential impact.

The New York Times then reported on Monday that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire staff over the message contradicting the president from the Alabama NWS office.

Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, the union that represents 4,000 NOAA employees, said Friday that his members were left "shocked, stunned, and irate" by the agency's statement.

He displayed a large map in the Oval Office on September 4 showing Alabama was potentially in Dorian's path, but USA media reports said that the map had been altered with a black Sharpie pen.

The Birmingham, Alabama, office of the National Weather Service, which sits under NOAA, corrected on Twitter the impression Trump gave about the path of Dorian.

"Absolutely no hard feelings", Laws said.

"And in this case, it's particularly serious because, of course, you know, issues around weather forecasting, ships rely on that, communities rely on that, people make decisions about whether a hurricane is coming or if it's not".

The Post highlighted 18 U.S. Code 2074, which reads: "Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both'".

Trump's incorrect assertion on September 1 that Alabama was at risk from Hurricane Dorian set off a chain of confusion and outrage among the public, and within NOAA.

Mr Trump tweeted over the weekend that the so-called "Sharpie-gate" scandal was "fake news" kept alive artificially by a hostile media. "We got calls about 'Should I go get my elderly parents?' There were so many concerns", he said in an interview.

While some forecasters had talked about walking out on Jacobs speech or staging some sort of protest, there was no demonstration and he received polite applause.

"We estimate that he is worth about $600 million", said Forbes senior editor Dan Alexander.

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

Jacobs added that he hopes that with the current elevated interest in forecasting "will come elevated funding to overcome the challenges we face, whether it's numerical weather prediction, high-performance computing, or dissemination".



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