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NOAA chief scientist reportedly investigating agency's backing of Trump's claims about hurricane

Posted at 10:54 AM, Sep 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-09 13:02:40-04

The chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in an email that he will be investigating the agency's response to President Trump's claims that Hurricane Dorian posed a threat to Alabama. The Washington Post reported on Monday that Craig McLean, NOAA's acting chief scientist, wrote an email to colleagues that said the agency's response to Mr. Trump's claims were "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, according to the Washington Post.

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.

"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 on Friday.

NOAA's statement also directly refuted a tweet from the Birmingham 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 Washington Post reported that McLean's letter criticized the public statements made by NOAA. McLean wrote that "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.

NOAA did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.

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 on Monday 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.