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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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Ray Cline, former deputy director of the CIA, visits a Khmer Rouge camp inside Cambodia as a senior foreign-policy adviser to President-elect Ronald Reagan. A Khmer Rouge press release reports that Cline “was warmly greeted by thousands of villagers.” [Blum, 1995]

Entity Tags: Ray Cline

Timeline Tags: US-Cambodia (1955-1993)

1984: Reagan Announces End to Aid for Contras

US President Ronald Reagan publicly claims to end aid to the contras in accordance with a congressional ban. However his administration continues the support, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal. [BBC, 6/5/2004; Columbia Encyclopedia. Sixth edition, 2005]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: US-Nicaragua (1979-), Iran-Contra Affair

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

When USGS hydrologist Christopher Milly submits a draft press release about a recent article on the increased risk of extreme flooding due to global warming, he is warned by a USGS press officer that the release might cause problems at the White House due to the sensitive nature of its topic. The news release would generate “great problems with the department,” Milly is advised. As predicted, the release is rejected by the Department of the Interior on grounds that the journal Nature will probably be publishing its own release about the article. [Washington Post, 4/6/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 33 pdf file] However, it has been noted (see, e.g., (April 2001)) that government press releases issued in conjunction with releases published by scientific journals are helpful to the public because government issued releases tend to be written in a language that it more accessible.

Entity Tags: US Department of Interior, Christopher Milly, US Geological Service

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

In an email exchange between Richard Wetherald, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), and NOAA public affairs staffer Jana Goldman, Wetherald complains that the Department of Commerce appears to be turning down press releases that have to do with global warming issues. In the following exchange, Wetherald refers to a study he recently co-authored (see October 5, 2002) on the potential impact global warming might have on soil moisture and run-off rates. In his email, he writes, “I have not bothered to write a draft NOAA press release since the last time it was turned down by the Dept. of Commerce (see (April 2001)). Apparently at that time, greenhouse or global warming papers were considered to be the literary equivalent of ‘persona non grata’ by the current administration. I assume that this is still the case? I don’t want to waste both of our times if it is. Anyway, here is the summary for your information. Please let me know if this policy has changed.” Goldman replies: “What I think I may do is pass the abstract along downtown and see what they think. I agree with you, the attitude seems to have changed regarding climate change, but let’s also avoid doing unnecessary work if it’s not going to go anywhere.” Wetherald says in response: “That sounds like a sensible idea. If by some miracle, you can use it as a NOAA press release, this would be fine as long as it contains the basic conclusions in the summary that I sent. I will certainly help out if it comes to that…” Goldman then writes: “I sent the abstract down to see if it would fly—if so, we would have to draft a release, but at least we would know that it would go through and our work would not be in vain.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31-33 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, US Department of Commerce, Jana Goldman

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The US Department of Commerce rejects a news release about an article on global warming written by NOAA research meteorologist Richard Wetherald. No reason is provided. This is the second time a news release written on an article by Wetherald has been rejected. The first time was in 2001 (see (April 2001)) [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, US Department of Commerce

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Journal of Geophysical Research publishes a study by research meteorologists Richard Wetherald and Syukuro Manabe on how global warming might impact the hydrology of different regions. According to their computer model, high latitudes would experience higher run-off rates as a result of global warming. Winters would see higher soil moisture levels than winters currently do, while summers would see lower than normal soil moisture levels. Soil moisture in lower latitudes would be lower year-round, potentially leading to the expansion of deserts. [Wetherald and Manabe, 2002]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, Syukuro Manabe

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The NOAA announces in a press release that it has awarded “over $3.4 million to Princeton University for Climate…’ as envisioned in the Bush administration’s Climate Change Research Initiative.’” The release was coordinated with Princeton, which also issues a press release. In an email sent before the release, Steve Mayle, administrative officer of the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, wrote, “George [Philander, a Princeton professor and researcher] said the University would probably issue its own press release. If that turns out to be the case, we should put your press people in touch with our press people so that they can coordinate the issuance of the releases.” In other instances where a proposed NOAA press release would have mirrored a release being issued by another organization, the NOAA has rejected the release, citing unnecessary duplication (see, e.g., (April 2001) and 2002). In those cases, the press releases concerned studies that undercut the Bush administration’s position on global warming. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Steve Mayle

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The US Department of Commerce blocks publication of a news release about an article on global warming written by NOAA research meteorologist Richard Wetherald. No reason is provided. This is the third time the DOC has rejected a news release written about an article by Wetherald. The other two times were in 2001 and 2002 (see (April 2001) and Fall 2002, respectively). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, US Department of Commerce

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

David Shukman, a science correspondent with the BBC, requests an interview with Pieter Tans, a research scientist at the NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory. Not until February 2005—some four months later—is the request approved by the NOAA’s public affairs office. But there is a stipulation. Tans can only be interviewed in the presence of NOAA press officer Kent Laborde. The interviews take place on March 22 and 24 in Boulder, CO, and Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Laborde has to travel there from NOAA headquarters in Washington, DC. [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 34 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Kent Laborde, Pieter Tans

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Rick Rosen, the assistant administrator for the NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, contacts Ahsha Tribble and suggests that the agency issue a press release to publicize a piece by climate scientist Chris Landsea that will be published several months later in the Journal of Climate. Landsea’s article, dealing with the issue of hurricane intensity and climate change, takes a position that is supportive of the Bush administration’s view on the issue. Rosen writes in an email, “It challenges the conclusions reached by Knutson and Tuleya (2004) (see September 28, 2004) regarding the potential for more intense hurricanes in a warmer climate. It is not likely to attract the same media attention as the original Knutson and Tulyea [sic] paper, but we should consider drafting a NOAA press release nonetheless.” Often, proposed press releases suggesting a link between human activity and global warming or global warming and hurricane intensity are delayed because of the “politically sensitive” nature of the topic. Sometimes they are not published at all. Such was the case for the 2004 Knutson and Tuleya study referred to by Rosen. Knutson submitted a press release on the paper, but it was never approved (see Before September 28, 2004). [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Rick Rosen, Ahsha Tribble

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

The NOAA issues a press release on a study co-authored by Jason Dunion, a hurricane researcher with the agency’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. The study finds that dust storms suppress hurricane activity. The authors say that periods of intense hurricane activity seem to have taken place when there were fewer dust storms, suggesting the possibility that dust storm scarcity, not global warming, may have caused the recent surge in hurricane activity. The lead author of the study was Amato Evan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10/13/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 31 pdf file] Earlier in the year, the NOAA rejected a press release linking global warming to greenhouse gases because, according to the public affairs office, the “lead author’s organization/agency usually takes the lead in issuing releases.” (see April 10, 2006).

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jason Dunion

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

When reporter Kitta MacPherson contacts the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a story she is writing about the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Plainsboro, New Jersey, she is told that she will be granted “unprecedented access” to the lab’s scientists. She interviews nine scientists for 30 minutes each. However a request to interview Richard Wetherald, a scientist who has complained about censorship (see September 26, 2002), is rejected, and her interview with scientist Ants Leetmaa is only permitted on the condition that a press official is present. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 12/6/2006]

Entity Tags: Ants Leetmaa, Richard Wetherald, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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