Photo By: 

Union Leader Weighs in on SharpieGate

After NOAA undercut their employees, the union criticized the unprecedented move

Kris LaGrange's picture
Sep 10, 2019

Hurricane Dorian may have moved out to sea, but its effects are still being felt in Washington D.C. as “SharpieGate” continues to make headlines. The controversy started when Trump sent out a tweet claiming that Dorian was going to hit Alabama. While it was true that an early forecast indicated that this was a possible track, the forecast had changed by the time Trump sent out the tweet.

In response, the National Weather Service in Birmingham sent out the following tweet:

This set off a week of Trump trying to prove that he was right about Dorian hitting Alabama. He even went so far as to take the official forecast map and doctor it with a black marker to extend the path of the hurricane into Alabama.

After Trump was mocked for this failed effort, he enlisted the support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In a statement from an unnamed spokesperson that said the NOAA and the National Hurricane Center had given Trump information that “demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” The statement went on to criticize the Birmingham office’s Sunday tweet, saying it “spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

This angered many of the employees at NOAA. The scientists try to stay out of politics and felt that management was throwing them under the bus. In response, the union that represents NOAA employees, the National Weather Service Employees Organization, sent out a statement saying “Recently NOAA management did not show support to one of its NWS forecast offices, a forecast office that was doing what was right, that is unfortunate. But remember we work for the American public and we have the overwhelming support of the American Public.”

The union’s President Dan Sobien expanded on that statement in an interview with The Daily Beast. “Never ever before has their management thrown them under the bus like this. These are the people risking their lives flying into hurricanes and putting out forecasts that save lives. Never before has their management undercut their scientifically sound reasoning and forecasts.” Sobien also sent out the following Tweet:

According to The Daily Beast, workers at NOAA were so angered by this move that they were considering a collective action to show their disapproval. One suggestion was using Sharpie’s to deface their NOAA t-shirts. No word yet on when the protest will take place.

Sign up for our e-Newsletter!