NOAA Chief Defends Controversial Statement While Expressing Support For Staffers

Neil Jacobs, acting administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, speaks at NOAA's 2019 Hurricane Season Outlook press conference. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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September 10, 2019 12:37 p.m.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acting Administrator Neil Jacobs on Tuesday expressed support for NOAA staffers while also defending the agency’s widely-criticized statement that backed President Donald Trump’s misleading claim about Hurricane Dorian’s impact on Alabama.

Jacobs made an appearance at the 2019 National Weather Association meeting in Huntsville, Alabama. He explained to meteorologists why NOAA had released a statement rebuking the weather agency in Birmingham, Alabama last week for accurately correcting Trump’s erroneous claim that Alabama would “likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by the category five storm.

“The purpose of the NOAA statement was to clarify the technical aspects of the potential impacts of Dorian,” Jacobs said. “What it did not say, however, is that we understand and fully support the good intent of the Birmingham weather forecast office, which was to calm fears in support of public safety.”

The acting NOAA chief said he was proud of all the weather forecast offices’ “outstanding work” in response to the category five storm, “including Birmingham.”

“There is no pressure to change how you communicate forecast risk in the future,” Jacobs said.

Without explicitly mentioning the New York Times report that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had threatened to fire NOAA staffers (including Jacobs himself) if they didn’t refute the Birmingham office’s statement, Jacobs assured employees that “no one’s job is under threat.”

“The weather service team has my full support and the support of the department,” he said.

Watch an excerpt of Jacobs’ speech below:

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