Profile: Thomas Knutson
Thomas Knutson was a participant or observer in the following events:
NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson is invited to give a presentation on global warming and hurricanes as part of a science seminar series on Capitol Hill sponsored by the American Meteorological Society. The presentation is cleared by the NOAA, but there is nonetheless concern about the title of his lecture—“Global Warming and Hurricanes.” Scott Carter, an NOAA legislative affairs officer, sends an email to NOAA official Ahsha Tribble asking her to comment on it. “I wanted to get your thoughts on him using the term global warming,” Carter says. “His title slide is ‘Global Warming and Hurricanes.’ I see the event does ask that, and I am no scientist, but I know that term is sensitive, so any problem in him using the term?” Some time later Knutson is advised not to use the term “Global Warming” in his title. “Just a heads-up… wouldn’t want the higher ups coming down on you. There is discomfort in the administration with these terms.” Knutson ignores the request. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 ]
NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson sends an email to NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman seeking approval to participate in an interview with Dave Brown of the Washington Post. In response, Goldman asks him what he “might… say about the relationship [between hurricanes and climate change].” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 13 ]
The NOAA public affairs office gives climate scientist Thomas Knutson permission to be interviewed by New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin—but only on the condition that the interview is minded by a public affairs officer. Revkin is apparently interested in discussing a recent article Kuntson co-authored on increased carbon dioxide levels possibly causing more severe hurricanes. When Revkin hears about the condition that has been placed on the interview request, he instead interviews Robert Tuleya, Kuntson’s coauthor. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 13-14 ]
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 ]
The Journal of Climate publishes a paper by hurricane expert Robert Tuleya and NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson suggesting that an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. Knutson’s study is based on computer analysis performed at the Commerce Department’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. The two scientists created some 1,300 virtual hurricanes using a more powerful version of the same supercomputer simulations that the NOAA uses to track and predict the behavior of real hurricanes. The New York Times reports that according to independent experts “this study is particularly significant… because it used half a dozen computer simulations of global climate, devised by separate groups at institutions around the world.” MIT climate scientist Kerry A. Emanuel says Knutson’s study “is by far and away the most comprehensive effort” to analyze the issue using computer simulations. [New York Times, 9/30/2004; Tuleya and Knutson, 2005 ]
Thomas Knutson receives a voicemail from NOAA public affairs officer Kent Laborde asking him if he would be interested in appearing on an MSNBC talk show to discuss hurricanes and climate change. The journal Nature has just published an article (see August 1, 2005) linking rising sea temperatures to hurricane intensity and MSNBC wants to interview Knutson who has published research on that topic (see September 28, 2004). Knutson decides to contact the show directly, since it is a weekend and Laborde is probably not at the office. He agrees to appear on the show and asks that MSNBC contact Laborde Monday morning. But on Monday morning, Laborde tells Knutson that the White House objects to the appearance. “White House said ‘no,’” he explains. Laborde adds that he has already called MSNBC to cancel his appearance. He told the show that Knutson was too tired for the interview because of a trip he had taken over the weekend. [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 30 ]
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) receives several requests for expert comments on a recent paper by climate scientist Kerry Emanuel (see August 1, 2005) suggesting that rising sea temperatures are resulting in stronger hurricanes. According to documents later obtained by the Government Accountability Project, the NOAA’s public affairs office redirects all requests for questions about Emanuel’s study, as well as all requests for interviews with federal climate scientist Knutson, to Chris Landsea, a scientist who does not believe there is a link between hurricane intensity and global warming (see July 27, 2005). [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 30 ] By August 1, Landsea will have participated in four such “routine, but sensitive” interviews. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 12 ]
Journalist Brian O’Malley contacts NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson to request an interview for an op-ed piece he is working on that will be published in the New York Times. Knutson forwards the request to NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman, who then checks with NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John. In her email to St. John, she concludes, “Knutson and I are concerned that Knutson’s science may be used to advance a policy position.” St. John responds, “Can you call [redacted] back and quiz him on what he’s working on. If it sounds a bit untowards, you can always just refer him to Tom’s paper and let me [sic] make his own characterizations.” Goldman replies, “Just spoke to him—he just wants to better understand the science—he is not looking to link an individual with a point of view.” St. John tells her to reject the request. “Take a pass,” he says. “We’ll deal with media requests but let’s not open the door to others.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 21 ]
Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist with the agency’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, NJ, recieves an interview request from CNBC television for its program “On the Money.” Knutson forwards the request to NOAA public affairs officer Kent Laborde for approval, as is required by NOAA’s media policy (see September 29, 2005). Laborde then directs the request to Chuck Fuqua, deputy director of communications at the Department of Commerce, who asks: “What is Knutson’s position on global warming vs. decadal cycles? Is he consistent with [Gerry] Bell and [Chris] Landsea?” (Bell and Chris have views that are more in line with the Bush administration’s position on global warming) Laborde then calls Knutson and asks him about his views on the future trend of Atlantic hurricane activity. Laborde then writes to Fuqua, saying that “he is consistent, but a bit of a different animal. He isn’t on the meteorological side. He’s purely a numerical modeler. He takes existing data from observation and projects forward. His take is that even with worse [sic] case projections of green house gas concentrations, there will be a very small increase in hurricane intensity that won’t be realized until almost 100 years from now.” Two minutes later Fuqua responds, “Why can’t we have one of the other guys on then?” Knutson is then informed that the interview request has been declined. [Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 30 ]
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