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Context of 'Before September 28, 2004: Press Release on Study Linking Increased Carbon Dioxide Levels to Hurricane Intensity Rejected by Bush Officials'

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Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), officially implements a new NOAA-wide media policy. The new policy, written by NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John, government lawyers, and Commerce Department policymakers, gives the NOAA’s public affairs offices ultimate authority over all agency communications. [Raw Story, 10/4/2005; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 pdf file] The media policy will become more restrictive after Hurricane Katrina (see September 29, 2005).

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John, Conrad C. Lautenbacher

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, 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

Department of Commerce press officer Catherine Trinh rejects a request for a media interview with a climate scientist. (The identity of this scientist has not been revealed.) “Let’s pass on this one,” she says in an e-mail to an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The official asks in response, “Can I please have a reason?” In another e-mail, Trinh again rejects a request for an interview. “Let’s pass on this… interview, but rather refer him to [redacted] of the [redacted] at [redacted],” she writes. “CEQ [White House Council of Environmental Quality] suggested him as a good person to talk on this subject.” The e-mails, obtained by Salon in 2006, reveal that requests for media interviews about climate change are being screened by officials at the Commerce Department (NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce). When asked by Salon if Commerce reviews all requests for media interviews with scientists, Richard Mills, the department’s director of public affairs, states, “I wouldn’t characterize it like that.” [Salon, 9/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Catherine Trinh, Richard Mills, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, 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

Erica Rule, a public affairs officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), informs scientist Chris Landsea that all media inquiries concerning a soon-to-be-published paper by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel (see August 1, 2005) will be directed to him. Emanuel’s paper links rising sea temperatures to stronger hurricanes, a view that is not favored by the White House. Landsea, who is familiar with the paper, has said he has “strong concerns about [Emanuel’s] methodology.” Another climate scientist who has read the article is Thomas Knutson. Knutson co-authored a paper the year before tying higher carbon dioxide levels to the increased intensity of hurricanes (see September 28, 2004). Media requests to interview Knutson will be redirected to Landsea (see July 29, 2005-August 1, 2005) as a result of this decision. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 12 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Erica Rule, Chris Landsea

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Chris Landsea, Kent Laborde, Thomas Knutson

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The journal Nature publishes an article by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel suggesting that rising sea temperatures are producing stronger hurricanes. His study found that a combined measure of duration and wind speeds among North Atlantic hurricanes and North Pacific cyclones has almost doubled since the 1970s. “The best way to put it is that storms are lasting longer at high intensity than they were 30 years ago,” says Emanuel. [Emanuel, 2005; USA Today, 7/31/2005]

Entity Tags: Kerry Emanuel

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

National Weather Service (NWS) Regional Public Affairs Director Jim Teet sends an email to employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) informing them that all requests for contact from the national media must “now receive prior approval by” the Commerce Department. According to the memo, when a media request is made, employees must obtain the “name of the reporter and their affiliation; [t]heir deadline and contact phone number; [n]ame of individual being requested for the interview and purpose of the interview; [a]dditional background about the interview subject, and expertise of requested interviewee on this subject,” and then provide this information to the NWS press office. From there, the request shall be forwarded to the Commerce Department’s public relations office, whose staff will then decide how to handle the media request. According to an unnamed NOAA employee, “prior to this policy change, if a media organization called our office (or any other National Weather Service office) and wanted an interview, we would do our best to accommodate the request as quickly as possible. While often such requests are from local media, local offices do get requests from national media if a weather event is big enough to be a national story.” But NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John insists that “the policy has been in existence all along,” and that he had rewritten it in June 2004 (see June 28, 2004) with lawyers and Commerce Department policymakers. But NOAA employees tell the Raw Story that they had never been informed of these restrictions before, and some suggest that the timing of Teet’s email may be related to the political impact of hurricane Katrina. According to Raw Story, there is a substantial difference between the June 2004 policy and the one emailed by Teet. “[T]he emailed policy states that routine contact with national media outlets has to be pre-cleared with the Commerce Department, requiring extensive information about the journalist and media outlet [while] [t]he media policy St. John provided does not stipulate such restrictions on interacting with national media. Nor does it state that the Commerce Department must approve media requests,” Raw Story reports. [Raw Story, 10/4/2005; New Republic, 2/11/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John, National Weather Service, Jim Teet

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson, Kent Laborde, Chuck Fuqua, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Chris Landsea

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, US Environmental Record, Global Warming

The US Department of Commerce’s deputy director of communications, Chuck Fuqua, approves a request from the media for an interview with NOAA hurricane researcher Chris Landsea. Landsea believes that global warming has little or no impact on hurricanes. Notwithstanding, Fuqua says in an email to a NOAA official, “Please be careful and make sure Chris is on his toes. Since [redacted] went off the menu, I’m a little nervous on this, but trust he’ll hold the course.” A week later, Fuqua grants a request for Landsea to appear on the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. In an email concerning the interview, Fuqua writes, “Please make sure Chris is on message and that it is a friendly discussion.” When Richard Mills, the department’s director of public affairs, is later asked by Salon what Fuqua meant by “stay on message,” Mills explains, “Chuck just meant that Chris should be ready and prepared.” [Salon, 9/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Chuck Fuqua, Chris Landsea

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

The November issue of NOAA Magazine (a publication of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reports, “There is consensus among NOAA hurricane researchers and forecasters that recent increases in hurricane activity are primarily the result of natural fluctuations in the tropical climate system known as the tropical multi-decadal signal.” [NOAA Magazine, 11/29/2005] In December, Kerry Emanuel, a climate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who believes that hurricanes are becoming more severe because of rising temperatures, tells a roomful of University of Rhode Island scientists that the NOAA report had censored the views of government scientists who believe there is a link between hurricane intensity and climate change. [Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2006; Providence Journal, 3/26/2006] In February, the Wall Street Journal will similarly report that despite what NOAA contended, several of the agency’s scientists “believed man-made warming was a key cause.” The day before the Journal’s report is published, the NOAA will issue a correction stating that the consensus “represents the views of some NOAA hurricane researchers and forecasters, but does not necessarily represent the views of all NOAA scientists.” [NOAA Magazine, 11/29/2005; Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Kerry Emanuel, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Reporter Peter Lord of the Providence Journal calls the NOAA public affairs office and requests an interview with scientist Thomas Knutson, the author of a 2004 paper (see September 28, 2004) suggesting that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. Lord speaks with public affairs officer Kent Laborde, who tells him that NOAA has discounted research linking global warming to more intense hurricanes. “What we’ve found is, if you look at a couple segments of science, observational or modeling, there is no illustrated link between climate change and hurricane intensity,” Laborde says. “We actually have periods of intensity followed by periods of lower intensity. We have evidence of periods going back to the 1930s. It follows a clear pattern.” When Lord says he would like to interview Knutson, Laborde asks, “What is the topic?” Lord says he wants to talk about Kerry Emanuel’s “theories linking climate change to worsening hurricanes.” Laborde responds, “Chris Landsea would be better. He’s an observational scientist.” Unlike Knutson, Landsea does not believe hurricane intensity is influenced by global warming. [Providence Journal, 3/26/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 79 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Chris Landsea, Kent Laborde, Peter B. Lord

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A group of 14 Democratic lawmakers, led by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, sends a letter to the inspector generals of both the Commerce Department and NASA requesting formal investigations into allegations that Bush administration political appointees suppressed evidence linking global warming to increased hurricane intensity (see 2005, October 16, 2005, October 19, 2005, and November 29, 2005- December 2005). [Office of Senator Frank Lautenberg, 9/29/2006; Associated Press, 11/2/2006]

Entity Tags: Frank R. Lautenberg, Hillary Clinton, Maria Cantwell, Thomas R. Carper, Harry Reid, James Jeffords, Jeff Bingaman, Robert Menendez, Barbara Boxer, Joseph Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Richard (“Dick”) Durbin, John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Officials at NASA and the Department of Commerce confirm that the inspectors general of both agencies have begun investigations into whether the White House has sought to prevent government climate scientist from conveying their findings to the public. The investigations were prompted by a request from 14 Democratic senators in late September (see September 29, 2006). The inquiries are expected to be completed by early 2007. [Scientists Say Findings Were Suppressed, 11/2/2006]

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (NASA), Office of the Inspector General (DOC)

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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