Updated Sep 10, 2019 - Science

NOAA chief: Weather should not be a partisan issue

Trump gives an Oval Office briefing on the status of Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 4.

Trump gives an Oval Office briefing on the status of Hurricane Dorian, Sept. 4. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

NOAA acting administrator Neil Jacobs on Tuesday both defended the Trump administration and thanked forecasters who contradicted the president’s claims about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama, AP and the Washington Post report.

Why it matters: Per AP, meteorologists have been concerned that NOAA had risked the credibility of the U.S. weather and science agency, and perhaps even lives, by issuing an unsigned statement Friday supporting President Trump's claim, after the National Weather Service's Birmingham office tweeted that Alabama would not be impacted.

Weather should not be a partisan issue."
— NOAA acting administrator Neil Jacobs

Details: Jacobs became emotional while telling a meteorology group that the purpose of the NOAA statement was to "clarify the technical aspects of the potential impacts of Dorian," noting that "at one point, Alabama was in the mix, as was the rest of the Southeast."

"What it did not say, however, is that we understand and fully support the good intent of the Birmingham weather office, which was to calm fears and support public safety."
  • Jacobs addressed a report by the New York Times report that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had threatened to fire NOAA officials who contradicted Trump (The Commerce Department denied to Axios that the incident occurred and called the NYT report "false.").
  • He assured forecasters they had his full support and that no one's job was under threat. "There is no pressure to change the way you communicate forecast," he said.

The big picture: NOAA's statement was met with outrage by members of the weather community. On Tuesday, NOAA's acting chief scientist Craig McLean joined the chorus of voices condemning the agency's action.

Go deeper: Read: Letter from NOAA's top scientist condemns "political" statement backing Trump

Editor’s note: This post was updated to add additional comments from NOAA acting administrator Neil Jacobs and the Commerce Department.

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