A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) statement affirming President Trump’s remarks over the threat of Hurricane Dorian to Alabama is drawing sharp backlash from meteorologists across the country.
Several former officials have accused the administration of caving to political pressure after NOAA disavowed a days-old tweet from the National Weather Service (NWS) that refuted Trump’s claim about the storm’s path.
The American Meteorological Society, the professional association of atmospheric scientists and weather forecasters, issued a statement of support for Weather Service employees.
“AMS believes the criticism of the Birmingham forecast office is unwarranted; rather they should have been commended for their quick action based on science in clearly communicating the lack of threat to the citizens of Alabama,” the statement said.
Many critics say NOAA’s decision to back Trump is putting politics before facts and undermining forecasters’ ability to carry out their mission to protect life and property, while eroding public trust.
They also worry about how the statement will affect Weather Service forecasters’ morale.
No one knows who wrote the statement accredited in the release to a “spokesperson” only.
Trump spent several days defending himself while criticizing pushback from the media and meteorologists who questioned his claim while noting that numerous projections showed the storm tracking farther east.
Former NOAA Chief Operating Officer David Titley blasted the NOAA statement, saying it represented “perhaps the darkest day ever for @noaa leadership.”
“Don’t know how they will ever look their workforce in the eye again. Moral cowardice,” he tweeted.
Monica Medina, who worked as NOAA’s general counsel, tweeted Friday, “As a former @NOAA leader I can say two things with certainty. No NOAA Administrator I worked for would have done this. And I would have quit if I had been directed to agree to let this BS go out.”
As a former @NOAA leader I can say two things with certainty. No NOAA Administrator I worked for would have done this. And I would have quit if I had been directed to agree to let this BS go out. https://t.co/oyyr2IlK8q
— Monica Medina (@MonicaMedinaDC) September 6, 2019
Dan Sobien, head of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, which represents thousands of workers under NOAA, said federal workers were “shocked, stunned and irate” with NOAA siding with Trump.
Sobien told The Daily Beast in an interview that “never ever before has their management thrown [employees] under the bus like this.”
The statement also drew scrutiny from meteorologists who said the initial tweet from the National Weather Service in Alabama was accurate.
Meteorologist Ryan Maue accused NOAA of “throwing your ‘Alabama’ NWS office under the bus,” adding that there was “nothing wrong” with the Birmingham NWS’s tweet.
The tweet from NWS Birmingham was spot on and accurate. If they are coming after them, they might as well come after me. How in the world has it come to this? https://t.co/73376v7Zpj
— James Spann (@spann) September 6, 2019
Al Roker, weather anchor for NBC’s “Today Show,” offered more restrained criticism, tweeting, “The @nwsand @NOAA has always been above politics and about presenting fact and information. Whether it’s a hurricane forecast or reports based on science about #ClimateChange America and the world have always trusted these organizations and nothing should be done to change that.”
The @nws and @NOAA has always been above politics and about presenting fact and information. Whether it’s a hurricane forecast or reports based on science about #ClimateChange America and the world have always trusted these organizations and nothing should be done to change that
— Al Roker (@alroker) September 7, 2019