The Bigger Reason Trump's Fight with a Weather Forecast Worries Meteorologists

livescience.com | 9/11/2019 | Rafi Letzter - Staff Writer
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Meteorologists found themselves at the center of a political storm this month, and some are worried that it could have long term consequences for their field.

When federal weather forecasters contradicted a President Trump tweet about the track of Hurricane Dorian, they faced blowback from a bevy of political offices, ranging from an unsigned statement from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to (reportedly) the secretary of commerce.

Situation - Meteorologists - Forecasts - People - Consequences

The situation has some meteorologists concerned. They suggest that if meteorological forecasts become politicized, some people may tune them out — with life-threatening consequences.

It all started with Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian would affect Alabama.

Alabama - Residents - President - Warning - National

After Alabama residents called to ask about the president's warning, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Birmingham, Alabama, publicly contradicted him.

"Alabama 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," the office wrote in a tweet.

Trump - Tweet - Point - Reporters - Weather

Trump has doubled-down on his incorrect tweet repeatedly, at one point presenting reporters with an out-of-date weather map, altered with a sharpie such that its probability cone seemed to include Alabama. Then, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), of which the NWS is a part, released an unsigned statement chastising the Birmingham office.

"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 NOAA statement said.

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NOAA's statement pointed to earlier wind-speed-probability maps that sometimes showed a 5% to 10% chance of tropical-storm-force winds in the far southeastern corner of the state, and in a couple instances showed a 10% to 20% chance of tropical-storm-force winds reaching some parts of Alabama.

A NOAA wind speed probability map from the same morning as Trump's first Alabama tweet shows a 5%...
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