Hurricane Florence makes landfall in North Carolina in 2018. Image: NOAA via Getty Images

Tim Gallaudet, the acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was suddenly replaced on Monday by the No. 3 official at the agency, former weather industry scientist Neil A. Jacobs.

Why it matters: The agency has been operating without a Senate-confirmed administrator for the longest time since it was created in 1970. Gallaudet, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, had earned plaudits for advancing the agency's priorities in ocean and atmospheric sciences without succumbing to political interference with climate research, as other agencies have during the Trump administration.

  • NOAA is responsible for regulating fisheries, forecasting the weather, and studying oceans and climate. It is perhaps best known for the National Weather Service and its hurricane hunter aircraft.

Details: An email went out to NOAA employees on Monday to announce the leadership swap, stating that it was ordered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. It gave no reason for the change, however.

"Today, Commerce Secretary Ross asked me to perform the nonexclusive functions and duties of Under Secretary and NOAA Administrator. As Senate confirmed Assistant Secretaries, I will continue to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction, while Admiral Gallaudet will continue to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere."
"In no way will this impact our mission or shift our priorities."

The all-staff email said that Gallaudet will now focus his time on oceans issues, taking him out of a climate communications role.

  • A NOAA spokesperson tells Axios the switch is a "natural shift that occurs in agencies and departments over time. Both leaders are dedicated professionals who believe in the people, science and missions at NOAA. The agency's important work on behalf of the American people and businesses will occur seamlessly into the future."

Between the lines: NOAA gave little notice to its overseers on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, only receiving word an hour before the move was announced.

  • Gallaudet made news in December when, under repeated climate change-related questioning from reporters at a science conference, admitted that he has never briefed President Trump on the issue, despite the agency's role as a major scientific research entity that funds and conducts climate studies.

Why you'll hear more about this: The Trump administration has nominated Barry Myers, the former CEO of the private weather forecasting company AccuWeather, to serve as NOAA administrator.

  • The Senate has not voted on the nomination, in part due to concerns over conflicts of interest stemming from his business career and investments.
  • Myers resigned from AccuWeather and divested his interests in the company in January. However, his brother continues to lead the company.

My thought bubble: The elevation of Jacobs, who previously ran weather programs at Panasonic Avionics, could position the administration to pull Myers' nomination if opposition is too strong to overcome.

Go deeper: Rapid global warming is bringing unprecedented changes to Arctic

Go deeper

Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 12,009,301 — Total deaths: 548,799 — Total recoveries — 6,561,969Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 3,053,328 — Total deaths: 132,256 — Total recoveries: 953,420 — Total tested: 37,532,612Map.
  3. Public health: Houston mayor cancels Republican convention over coronavirus concerns Deaths are rising in hotspots — Déjà vu sets in as testing issues rise and PPE dwindles.
  4. Travel: United warns employees it may furlough 45% of U.S. workforce How the pandemic changed mobility habits, by state.
  5. Education: New York City schools will not fully reopen in fallHarvard and MIT sue Trump administration over rule barring foreign students from online classes.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: A misinformation "infodemic" is here.

Transcripts show George Floyd told police "I can't breathe" over 20 times

Photo: Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Newly released transcripts of bodycam footage from the Minneapolis Police Department show that George Floyd told officers he could not breathe more than 20 times in the moments leading up to his death.

Why it matters: Floyd's killing sparked a national wave of Black Lives Matter protests and an ongoing reckoning over systemic racism in the United States. The transcripts "offer one the most thorough and dramatic accounts" before Floyd's death, The New York Times writes.

5 hours ago - Health

Fighting the coronavirus infodemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An "infodemic" of misinformation and disinformation has helped cripple the response to the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: High-powered social media accelerates the spread of lies and political polarization that motivates people to believe them. Unless the public health sphere can effectively counter misinformation, not even an effective vaccine may be enough to end the pandemic.