Sharpiegate: Meteorological agency defends Trump's claim and contradicts scientists

A federal agency has reversed course over the issue of Donald Trump tweeting outdated information about Hurricane Dorian potentially hitting Alabama, disrupting meteorologists across the country.

On Sunday, Trump had warned that Alabama, along with the Carolinas and Georgia, "was more likely to be hit (much) more than anticipated."

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Birmingham, Alabama later tweeted: “Alabama will NOT be impacted by Dorian. We repeat that no impact from Hurricane Dorian will be felt in Alabama. The system will remain very far in the east. ”

But the president has been adamant over the week that he was correct, and the White House has employed resources and government officials to support him.

The latest defense was issued late Friday, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement by an unidentified spokesman stating that information provided by Noaa and the National Hurricane Center to the president showed that “the winds of the Hurricane Dorian's tropical storms could impact Alabama. The warnings were dated last Wednesday, 28 from August to Monday, the statement said.

The statement also said the Birmingham NWS tweet on Sunday morning "spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with the odds of the best forecasting products available at the time."

Noaa's statement contrasts with comments made by agency spokesman Chris Vaccaro last Sunday. "Dorian's current prediction path does not include Alabama," Vaccaro said at the time.

Friday's Noaa statement, released shortly before 17h, points to some charts issued by the National Hurricane Center to support Trump's claims. The maps show the percent chance of tropical storm winds in the United States. Parts of Alabama were covered, usually with odds of 5% to 10%, between August 27 and September 3. August's 30 maps grew to cover much more Alabama, but for only 12 hours, and the highest percentage reached 20% to 30% before shrinking rapidly.

Alabama was not mentioned in any of the 75 forecast warnings that the hurricane center sent between August 27 and September 2.

From 28 to 31 in August, several locations in Alabama were mentioned in charts listing the percentage chance of tropical storm winds or hurricane winds, with 11% chance of Montgomery receiving tropical storm winds.

“So disappointing”

Former National Hurricane Center director Bill Read criticized Noaa's leadership on Friday night on his Facebook page, calling the situation “so disappointing” and saying he would comment on why Noaa employees were forced to stay. shut up.

“NOAA Leadership really agrees with what it has published or been ordered to do. If it is the first, the statement shows a lack of understanding of how to use probabilistic forecasts in conjunction with other forecasting information. Embarrassing. If it is the last, the statement shows a lack of courage on their part for not supporting the people in the field who are actually doing the work. Touching, ”wrote Read.

Dan Sobien, president of the weather service union's union, tweeted on Friday: “Let me assure you that the hard-working NWS employees have nothing to do with the totally disgusting and fake tweet sent by management. from NOAA tonight. ”

In a telephone interview with the Guardian, he explained his deep concern about Noaa's statement, which he said was unprecedented in his decades with the NWS. (Sobien emphasized that he was speaking as union president, not NWS, which is overseen by Noaa.)

“It is unheard of that [Noaa] would undermine his own officials without any scientific basis for political reasons. It has never happened before under any administration… It does not happen. This is a scientific agency. People collect data and make the best decisions they can make from that data. "

Sobien's union represents about 4.000 NWS employees, including meteorologists, flight engineers, technicians and others.

“NWS's job is to save people's lives and if you undermine that authority, it will cost people's lives,” he said. “If they don't believe in hurricane or hurricane warnings, it will cost lives. That's what Noaa is doing. It is an irresponsible managerial misconduct and, frankly, someone should investigate them. They have no right to run an organization if that is what they are going to do. “

He said NWS employees were expressing discontent on social media.

“I saw from our own members that they are on the warpath. People are asking us to do something and I don't know what to do. It's disgusting. The whole thing is just ridiculous.

Other meteorologists also expressed concern about NOAA's actions on Friday.

"I am very disappointed to see this statement come out of Noaa," University of Oklahoma weather professor Jason Furtado told the Associated Press. "I am grateful to the people at NWS Birmingham for their work in keeping Alabama citizens informed and updated on climate risks."

Source: Guardian

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