Lead NOAA scientist vows to probe agency's defense of Trump

NOAA Chief: Response to Trump’s Hurricane Forecast was ‘Political’ & ‘Danger to Public Health and Safety’

NOAA Chief: Response to Trump’s Hurricane Forecast was ‘Political’ & ‘Danger to Public Health and Safety’

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reportedly threatened to fire leading employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after their Birmingham office contradicted President Donald Trump, The New York Times reports.

McLean said he would investigate why the statement was put out and if it violated NOAA's sterling scientific integrity policy (reader, it nearly certainly did). At one point, he even displayed a map in the Oval Office, which appeared to be altered with black marker in order to show the storm's projected path extending to the southern edge of Alabama.

The statement described the position by NWS's Birmingham office as "inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time".

While the NWS's Birmingham, Alabama division quickly corrected the president on September 1 without naming him, NOAA officials caused an internal uproar on September 6 when the agency issued an unsigned statement that defended Trump's false claim about Alabama and admonished the Weather Service's Birmingham division for speaking "in absolute terms".

The NWS' Birmingham office attempted to correct the president on September 1, stating that Alabama "would NOT see impacts" from the storm.

That has not stopped commerce secretary Wilbur Ross from threatening to fire senior officials if they do not issue a public communique defending the president, the New York Times reported Monday.

Kevin Laws, science and operations officer with the weather service office in Birmingham, said he appreciated the remarks by Jacobs, who he has known for 20 years.

Ross's warning led to NOAA's headquarters issuing an unusual statement disavowing the National Weather Service's assertion Alabama was not at risk.

Jacobs said Dorian presented forecasters with a "particularly difficult" challenge and noted that early on, "Alabama was in the mix, as was the rest of the south-east".

The accusations against Ross are the latest developments in a political imbroglio that began more than a week ago, when Dorian was bearing down on the Bahamas and Trump wrote on Twitter that Alabama would be hit "harder than anticipated". At the time, the National Weather Service's forecast guidance showed only a very small risk - about 5 percent - to the state from tropical force winds. Birmingham's National Weather Service officials were forced to issue a statement reassuring Alabamians that the storm was not coming their way, after fielding calls from people anxious they that should evacuate.

Some forecasters had talked about walking out on Jacobs' speech or staging some sort of protest but there was no demonstration and he received polite applause.

Former NOAA general counsel in the Clinton Administration Monica Medina tweeted, "As a former @NOAA leader I can say two things with certainty. We got calls about 'Should I go get my elderly parents?' There were so many concerns", he said in an interview. According to emails obtained by The Post last Friday revealed that NOAA staff were instructed to "only stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon" and not to "provide any opinion".

McLean said the agency's statement "inappropriately and incorrectly contradicted the NWS forecaster" for political, not scientific, reasons.

Jacobs added that he hopes that with the current elevated interest in forecasting "will come elevated funding to overcome the challenges we face, whether it's numerical weather prediction, high-performance computing, or dissemination".