Trump Administration Disavows Own Meteorologists for Issuing Factual Statement on Hurricane Dorian

Published Feb 3, 2020

What happened: During a time of national emergency as category five Hurricane Dorian approached the Bahamas and then the US coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a memo that disavowed its own sub-agency’s scientifically-valid statement on social media concerning the path of the hurricane. The scientists and staff at the National Weather Service (NWS) in the Birmingham office were correcting President Trump’s inaccurate tweet saying that Alabama was in the path of the storm. The problem became even more serious when White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, presumably at the President’s direction, ordered Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to make sure that NWS forecasters not contradict the President even when he is wrong. Secretary Ross passed that order along to NOAA, threatening to fire people if he didn’t get his way.

Why It Matters: Federal scientists, like those at NWS, are an important authoritative source for weather forecast information. Censoring them from providing needed scientific information to the general public is not only chilling, but in times of national emergencies or impending natural disasters literally puts people’s lives in danger. The actions taken by political officials were unlawful (it is against the law to alter an official NWS forecast), violated NOAA’s scientific integrity policy, diverted resources from needed hurricane relief efforts, and caused panic during an emergency situation. When political considerations take precedent over the ability of scientists to provide important, potentially-life saving information to the American people, then all of our health and safety is at risk of being compromised.

Learn more about “Sharpiegate,” where President Trump altered the storm’s path into Alabama via a sharpie pen, and thereby wholly contradicting the NWS scientists who were providing needed and accurate scientific information about Hurricane Dorian’s path.