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In this NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image, Hurricane Dorian, a Cat. 4 storm, moves slowly past Grand Bahama Island on September 2, 2019. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)

The White House on Thursday evening nominated Rick Spinrad, an oceanographer at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Why it matters: Filling the NOAA slot would complete the Biden administration's leadership on the climate and environment team. The agency, located within the Commerce Department, houses the National Weather Service and conducts much of the nation's climate science research.

  • The nomination was announced on Earth Day, with a slew of other sub-Cabinet level environment-related nominations also announced across the federal government.

The intrigue: Spinrad is a NOAA veteran, having served a stint as its chief scientist during the Obama administration. He has also served as the head of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and the National Ocean Service, and in senior Navy positions.

  • For the nomination, Spinrad would beat out several prominent scientists who would have been newer faces in NOAA leadership.
  • These include Marshall Shephard, a prominent University of Georgia meteorologist, along with Dawn Wright, chief scientist at Esri — an international supplier of geographic information system software — and Everette Joseph, who leads the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Context: Spinrad will need to work to restore confidence in NOAA's scientific integrity, after morale and public trust was eroded by a scandal in 2019.

  • Traditionally a controversy-free agency, NOAA was embroiled in a dustup in 2019 known as "sharpiegate" after agency forecasters seemed to correct President Trump's erroneous assertions that Hurricane Dorian would severely affect Alabama.
  • Under pressure from the White House, the agency criticized its own forecasters in an unsigned statement.
  • A series of investigations, including by the Commerce Department Inspector General's Office, concluded that officials at the cabinet agency as well as in NOAA leadership violated its scientific integrity policy.

What's next: In a clear sign the Biden administration wants to take NOAA in a different direction, the White House has asked Congress for the largest budget in NOAA's history, with total funding of $6.9 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion compared to the 2021 enacted level. Much of it would go towards climate science research.

Go deeper

Monica Medina nominated for State Department's top oceans, environment post

President Joe Biden. Photo: Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has nominated Monica Medina to become assistant secretary at the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, the White House announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Medina, the wife of White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, previously worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Updated 26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Gavin Newsom to face recall election

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Getty Images

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will face a recall election later this year, California's Secretary of State confirmed Wednesday.

Why it matters: This will be the second time in California's history that a gubernatorial recall campaign has succeeded in getting on the ballot, out of a total of 55 attempts, per Bloomberg.

America's child care sticker shock

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Parents looking to return to the job market may find child care options have gotten pricier — and that's if they can enroll their kids at all.

Why it matters: The fate of the recovery partially relies on the return of parents who left the workforce to care for their children.

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