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Photo by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is one of Donald Trump's greatest loyalists, so when Trump took to griping last week about how he was actually completely right to warn Alabama it was in the path of Hurricane Dorian, Ross knew just how to back up the Great Man. Ross, who was traveling in Greece, called up the acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to demand the agency rebuke those awful meteorologists in Alabama who, shortly after Trump's September 1 tweet, pointed out there was no threat to Alabama, not at all. Shame on them for preferring "reality" over Trump!

The New York Times reports that Ross didn't just demand NOAA release a statement backing up the wise smart "president"; he also threatened that if the rogue forecasters weren't repudiated, heads would roll at NOAA. And so NOAA issued an unsigned statement Friday claiming the statement from the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service had been "inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time." NWS meteorologists immediately lost their shit about the weather being Stalinized, and everyone started citing George Orwell on what two plus two equals.

In response to the Times story, a Commerce Department spokesperson insisted Ross had definitely not threatened to fire anyone, no sir, but the Times also points out the spokesperson

declined to comment on whether Mr. Ross had spoken with the NOAA administrator or ordered the agency to rebut the statement contradicting the president's assertion about a threat to Alabama.

This seems like a good opportunity to mention that Wilbur Ross totally lied to Congress about why his department wanted to add a citizenship question to the Census. So yeah, let's trust him on this.


Two days after Donald Trump showed the world his very cool Sharpie-enhanced map showing that Alabama was so going to be hit by Dorian according to a storm track that was days old by the time he tweeted about it, Ross stepped in, according to "three people familiar with his actions." Ross got on the horn from Greece to get a loyalty pledge from Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, and told him to make it clear that NOAA had not supported the contradiction of President Barstool.

Dr. Jacobs objected to the demand and was told that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed[.]

The White House is now thoroughly in support of the bogus NOAA statement, according to the White House, at least:

A senior administration official who asked not to be identified when discussing internal deliberations said that the Birmingham office had been wrong and that NOAA had simply done the responsible thing and corrected the record.

That official suggested the Twitter post by the Birmingham forecasters had been motivated by a desire to embarrass the president more than concern for the safety of people in Alabama. The official provided no evidence to support that conclusion.

OK, but the tweet DID embarrass Trump, so that was obviously the only motivation possible for those traitors. Why else would anyone contradict him? He is never wrong; that's just science.

Of course now, the disloyalty to President Sciencebrain is getting even worse, with high level NOAA and Commerce officials saying they plan to investigate how the hell that ridiculous statement came to exist. Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson sent a message to NOAA staffers asking them to turn over any documents related to last Friday's statement, saying the Weather Service "must maintain standards of scientific integrity," and that the whole sorry affair might

call into question the NWS's processes, scientific independence, and ability to communicate accurate and timely weather warnings and data to the nation in times of national emergency.

In addition, NOAA's acting chief scientist, Craig McLean, sent an email to agency staff on Sunday, promising an investigation and calling the decision to undermine the Birmingham NWS office "political" and a "danger to public health and safety."

"The NWS Forecaster(s) corrected any public misunderstanding in an expert and timely way, as they should," McLean wrote. "There followed, last Friday, an unsigned news release from 'NOAA' that inappropriately and incorrectly contradicted the NWS forecaster. My understanding is that this intervention to contradict the forecaster was not based on science but on external factors including reputation and appearance, or simply put, political."

He also wrote that "the content of this news 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.

In addition, at the National Weather Association, a weather industry conference -- held in Huntsville, Alabama, because God appreciates a funny joke as much as anyone -- National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini praised the Birmingham forecasters for taking swift action to nip a nasty rumor in the bud and provide the public with accurate information. The audio is sort of terrible, but it's at about the 18:40 mark here.

Uccellini said that when the Birmingham team went into rumor control mode, they were simply responding to phone calls and social media messages from people who were worried Alabama was about to be hit "harder than anticipated" by the hurricane. So they did their job, swinging into action "with strong language" to shut down the rumors.

They did that with one thing in mind: Public safety. And they responded not knowing where this information was coming from. Only later, when the retweets and politically based comments came into their office, did they learn the sources of this information. Nevertheless, they were correct in clarifying that the threat was very low [...]

Let me be clear: The Birmingham office did this to stop public panic, to ensure public safety, the same goal as all the National Weather Service offices were working toward at that time.

Uccellini emphasized that "the integrity of the forecast process was maintained by the Birmingham office," and indeed by the whole weather service, so there. He asked any members of the Birmingham office to stand up to be recognized, and the crowd gave them a standing ovation.

We can only imagine Wilbur Ross will suddenly discover an urgent need for McLean and Uccellini to be reassigned to file clerk duties in Antarctica, along with the entire forecasting staff in Birmingham. There's a "president" who has to be kept happy.

Also, if you missed Rachel Maddow's discussion last night of how the Commerce Secretary is the boss of the nation's weather scientists because Richard Nixon hated his secretary of Interior, that's a fun little sidelight to the story. Sadly the video appears not to be available, so you can read all about it here.

[NYT / WaPo / Politico / Photo by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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