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NOAA chief scientist condemns agency's "political" backing of Trump's claims about hurricane

NOAA scientist reacts to Trump hurricane claims

The chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said he is looking into "potential violations" of scientific integrity in the way the agency responded to President Trump's claims that Hurricane Dorian posed a threat to Alabama. Craig McLean, NOAA's acting chief scientist, wrote an email to colleagues that said the agency's statement Friday backing up Mr. Trump's claims was "political" and a "danger to public health and safety."

"I am pursuing the potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity," McLean wrote in the email, which was obtained by CBS News. The letter was first reported by the Washington Post.

At the White House last week, Mr. Trump held up a NOAA map that appeared to have been altered with a black pen to show a projection of the storm possibly striking Alabama. On Friday, NOAA backed up the president's ongoing assertions that the state appeared initially to be in the path of the hurricane — contradicting the findings of the agency's own meteorologists.

"From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama," a NOAA spokesman said in a statement Friday.

Trump
President Trump talks with reporters after receiving a briefing on Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office of the White House on Wed., Sept. 4, 2019, in Washington. AP

NOAA's statement also directly refuted a tweet from the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service that had contradicted Mr. Trump. "The Birmingham National Weather Service's Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time," the statement read. The Birmingham tweet assured Alabama residents that the state "will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east."

McLean's letter criticized the NOAA statement, writing: "The content of this press release is very concerning as it compromises the ability of NOAA to convey life-saving information necessary to avoid substantial and specific danger to public health and safety."

"If the public cannot trust our information, or we debase our forecaster's warnings and products, that specific danger arises," McLean wrote.

On Monday, The Associated Press reported the head of the National Weather Service defended forecasters who contradicted Mr. Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian posed a threat to Alabama as it approached the United States. Director Louis Uccellini spoke at a meteorology convention and offered unambiguous support for the National Weather Service when he said forecasters were in the right by disputing the president's claims that Dorian posed a threat to Alabama.

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