Jane Lubchenco (2009-2013), D. James Baker (1993-2001) and Kathryn D. Sullivan (2013-2017) are former administrators of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Monday brought the welcome news that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration career leaders are pushing back against political interference with weather forecasts. Craig McLean, the acting chief scientist , is investigating the agency’s apparent attempts to defend President Trump’s inaccurate statements about the danger to Alabama from Hurricane Dorian. And another career civil servant, National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini, publicly defended the “integrity of the forecasting process.”
Weather forecasting should never be political. The National Weather Service, an agency within NOAA, issues forecasts and warnings that are based on science and focused squarely on public safety. For more than a century, the agency has played a vital role in protecting the lives and property of Americans across the country.
To be effective, NWS forecasts and warnings need to be accurate, timely and clear. Everyone — citizens, airline officials, farmers, fishermen, city officials and emergency managers — relies on the NWS to provide trustworthy information. Even a hint that a forecast or warning was influenced by politics would undermine the public’s trust and the ability to respond quickly and effectively under potentially life-threatening conditions.