Evan Vucci / AP
The parent agency of the National Weather Service said late Friday that President Trump was correct when he claimed earlier this week that Hurricane Dorian had threatened Alabama.
The surprising message in an unsigned statement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) essentially endorsed Trump's Sunday tweet saying that Alabama "is likely to be hit (much) harder than expected. "
Following a tweet from the President, the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Ala., Responded with his own tweet saying "Alabama will NOT see impacts from # Dorian. We repeat, no hurricane strikes will be felt # Dorian in Alabama. The system will stay too far east. "
The NOAA statement puts the National Weather Service on assignment, announcing "the Birmingham National Weather Service on Sunday morning chirping in absolute terms the probabilities of the best forecast products available at that time. "
The surprise statement on Friday left meteorologists across the country confused and upset.
" Some NOAA administrator or someone has thrown the National Weather Service under the bus, "said Brian McNoldy, a University of Miami hurricane researcher.
"The part that really smells like fish is that it's five days after this tweet from Trump," he added. "If the National Weather Service issues a misleading or incorrect tweet, it will have to be modified or adjusted after an hour or two.
"I am very disappointed to see this statement come out of NOAA," University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado told the Associated Press. He said controversies over the president's tweets and NOAA's statement undermined public confidence in meteorologists.
Since his initial tweet, Trump has been visiting the dispute almost every day this week, including showing a doctored version of a map showing Hurricane Dorian a forecast path that would include Alabama.
In the early days of the hurricane, when it was predicted that Dorian would cross Miami or West Palm Beach before reaching the Bahamas, some models strongly suggested that Alabama and Georgia would be struck as it made its way through Florida and the Gulf ….
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2019
In fact, as NPR's Brian Naylor reports, a National Hurricane Map showed that tropical forces rather than hurricane-class winds can be seen in Alabama . Such winds vary between 39-73 mph. This map also shows that there was only a 5 percent probability of such winds below Alabama.
Underlining the response of meteorologists to the escalating debate over the president's assertions is the fear that weather forecasting itself becomes politicized.
"Hurricanes have never been left or right," says McNaldie. "And I hope they don't become that."