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Context of 'April 13, 2006: Senior NOAA Meteorologist Says Interviews with US Media Have Dropped to Almost Zero'

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Richard Wetherald, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), writes a press release on a paper he has written on global warming that will soon be published in the prestigious Geophysical Research Letters. But a few days after submitting the press release, NOAA press officer Jana Goldman informs him that the release has been rejected. The reason provided by NOAA is that since the journal will be sending out its own press release, there is no need for NOAA to do one as well. Wetherald doesn’t buy it. According to Wetherald, NOAA would not be duplicating efforts because while the journal’s press release will be written in technical jargon, the NOAA release he drafted is written in language that is more accessible to the public. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Richard Wetherald

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist with the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, NJ, prepares a one-page summary for a press release on his soon-to-be published paper in the Journal of Climate (see September 28, 2004). His article, co-authored with hurricane expert Robert Tuleya, suggests that an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. The press release is not approved. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A reporter with National Geographic magazine contacts Ronald Stouffer, senior research meteorologist at the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and asks him to comment on a study on melting Arctic sea ice. Stouffer tells the reporter that he needs to obtain permission from the public affairs office before he can respond. Stouffer sends the request to public affairs officer Jana Goldman, who writes in response, “I know the DoC [Department of Commerce] is going to ask—well, what is his position…. So can you give me an idea of how you might respond?” The public affairs office does not make a decision on the interview request until after the reporter’s deadline. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 17 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ronald Stouffer, Jana Goldman

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Flowchart showing NOAA’s review process for press releasesFlowchart showing NOAA’s review process for press releases [Source: Government Accountability Project] (click image to enlarge)A February 2006 NOAA document features a flowchart outlining the review process that news releases must go through before they are published. According to the flowchart, the press release is submitted and reviewed by several layers of bureaucracy within the NOAA and the Department of Commerce. As a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists will note, “a successful press release must pass review by several entities that primarily serve political and public relations functions, and scientists do not have a right of final review to ensure scientific accuracy of the final product.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 32 pdf file] In April 2006, Ronald Stouffer, a senior NOAA research meteorologist, will say he “stopped trying to get press releases out” because of the difficulty of explaining the science to the agency’s public affairs officers and because of the complexity of the approval process. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Joellen Russell, a former GFDL research scientist who is now an assistant professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona, sends an email to NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman explaining why the NOAA should issue a press release on a paper he lead authored. Many of the coauthors are NOAA scientists. He writes: “Ron Stouffer asked me to contact you. He told me that you and Maria had discussed the following paper, ‘The Southern Hemisphere Westerlies in a Warming World: Propping the Door to the Deep Ocean.’ I am the lead author of this paper that describes the critical role of the Southern Ocean in the global climate response to increasing greenhouse gases. I have a number of GFDL [Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory] co-authors (Ronald Stouffer, Keith Dixon, Robbie Toggweiler, and Anand Gnanadesikan) and our study uses the latest GFDL coupled climate models to quantify the large and growing influence of the Southern Ocean on climate. Therefore, we think this paper is worthy of a press release.” But the request is denied. Goldman explains, “The lead author’s organization/agency usually takes the lead in issuing releases.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30-31 pdf file] In October, the NOAA will issue a press release on a study whose lead author is not a US government scientist. In that study, the conclusion is that hurricane activity is suppressed by dust clouds and that periods of intense hurricane activity seem to have taken place when there were fewer dust storms. (The implication being that dust storm scarcity, not global warming, may have caused the recent increase in hurricane activity) (see October 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Joellen Russell

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Ronald Stouffer, senior research meteorologist at the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, tells Tarek Maassarani of the Government Accountability Project that the number of interviews he has had with the US media have dropped to almost zero. He attributes this to the cumbersome approval process that a journalist must wait through before being permitted to interview a scientist. Even if an interview is approved, the approval often comes too late, after the reporter’s deadline for the story. Stouffer refers to the NOAA’s clearing process as a “pocket veto” since delaying an approval often produces the same result as turning down an interview request. Stouffer also tells Maassarani that European journalists are usually “shocked” when they learn that interview requests need to be cleared by the public affairs office. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 23-24 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ronald Stouffer

Timeline Tags: Global Warming


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