Directors of NOAA Research and National Weather Service Push Back

The Sharpie-Gate saga continued yesterday when The Washington Post obtained an internal email from the Chief Scientist at NOAA, Craig McLean, who wrote his colleagues that he “is investigating whether the agency’s response to President Trump’s Hurricane Dorian tweets constituted a violation of NOAA policies and ethics.” In addition, the head of the National Weather Service “broke with NOAA leadership” over its handling of Trump’s Hurricane Dorian misinformation tweets and statements.  And finally, The NY Times late yesterday afternoon reported that the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, threatened to fire the political leadership at the agency if the official NOAA Statement criticizing the Birmingham forecast office did not go out and that the Department’s own Inspector General would also now investigate the matter.

Why This Matters:  The National Weather Service Forecast Offices and the National Hurricane Center have the most up to date information about storms and severe weather — they issue the definitive weather forecasts to the entire weather forecasting public-private enterprise and to emergency managers at every level.  This is a system that has served the public well for decades.  It is good that the career public servants are willing to stand up and defend the actions of their employees — they were just doing what we need them to do to keep us safe and should not fear for their jobs or careers.   And when there is a violation of agency policy, it should be looked at by leadership to make sure they know why and how to do better the next time.  All of what the career agency employees are doing is routine and standard.  They should be allowed to do their jobs without political interference.  But now the President’s supporters may believe those civil servants have “taken sides” against him.  This is tragic and yet may have been inevitable once he took out that sharpie.

Craig McLean’s Memo To Agency Staff

The Washington Post quoted McLean’s memo:

  • “I am pursuing the potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity…I have a responsibility to pursue these truths,” he added. “I will.”
  • I (Monica) can attest that Craig McLean is a dedicated public servant and a straight shooter.  McLean has extensive experience in NOAA’s ocean programs and is also an attorney who has practiced marine resource law. He has been awarded the Department of Commerce Silver and Bronze medals, among other accolades, according to The Post.


Lou Uccellini”s Remarks to NWS Employees

The Post reported that the “American Meteorological Society issued a statement of support for the NWS, writing: ‘AMS believes the criticism of the Birmingham forecast office is unwarranted; rather they should have been commended for their quick action based on science in clearly communicating the lack of threat to the citizens of Alabama.'”

The Post also reported that “National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini got a standing ovation at a major weather industry conference in Huntsville, Ala., when he broke with his bosses at NOAA by enthusiastically backing his agency’s forecasters regarding their performance during Hurricane Dorian.

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