The weather has always been political. From Bible stories that describe divine forecasts of flood and storms, to the correlation between rainfall and political assassinations in ancient Rome, the ability to anticipate and respond to weather-related phenomena has long been understood to make or break leaders. For modern examples, look no further than the fallout after Hurricane Katrina, or the urgent fight currently taking place over climate change.
But only very recently has the uncertainty of weather prediction also started to be exploited for political gain.
On Sept. 1, President Trump infamously claimed that Alabama “would most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian, a statement that was then refuted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), then defended by the agency, and is now the subject of an internal investigation and a growing scandal involving Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. While the whole snafu snowballed into a kind of theater that was almost comical — involving doctored maps and rage tweets — the underlying implication of the whole affair is much more worrying: That the inherent unknowableness of a forecast can be a political tool, too, and one that can carry deadly consequences if not taken seriously. “This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast,” one anonymous employee at the national meteorological agency said.
Predicting the weather is something America is surprisingly not great at. Compared to European weather computer models, NOAA in particular tends to be more prone to error — most devastatingly, in the case of its estimation that Hurricane Sandy would weaken out over the ocean, while in reality over 200 people died after the storm strengthened …read more
Source:: The Week – Science