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Context of 'February 1, 2006: NOAA Again Requires Presence of Minder at Media Interview with Scientist'

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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 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson, Robert Tuleya

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

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

After Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), receives an interview request on the topic of “intense rainfall events/intense hurricanes and global warming,” he is instructed by NOAA public affairs officer John Leslie to have the journalist speak with him first. Leslie tells Karl in an email, “Please have [the journalist] contact me by phone [redacted] or email. I’ll run this by those who need to know.” The email is also sent to Kent Laborde, another NOAA public affairs officer. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: John Leslie, Kent Laborde, Thomas Karl

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman works with agency scientists on a press release about a forthcoming paper co-authored by Richard Feely, an NOAA scientist employed at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. The paper, to be published in the journal Nature, presents evidence that increased carbon dioxide levels are increasing the acidity of oceans and lowering the level of calcium carbonate saturation. Lower levels of calcium carbonate pose a threat to marine organisms, such as corals and some plankton, which need the compound to maintain their calcium carbonate exoskeletons. A colleague of Feely, Pieter Tans, says of the paper, “The association of ocean acidification with high atmospheric CO2 is about as solid as it gets.” But the press release, which would have coincided with the publishing of the study, is blocked by “higher-ups.” Tans tells the Government Accountability Project, “It appeared that NOAA didn’t want to be associated with it, even though they had reason to be proud of a good paper.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 32 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Richard Feely, Pieter Tans

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

David Hofmann, a lab director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), asks scientists who will be attending the Seventh International Carbon Dioxide Conference in Boulder not to use the term “climate change” in conference papers’ titles and abstracts. According to Pieter Tans, one of the participants, he and the other scientists ignore the request. [Washington Post, 4/6/2006]

Entity Tags: Pieter Tans, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

NOAA officials push to alter the language of a paper NOAA research scientist Pieter Tans will be presenting at the Seventh International Carbon Dioxide Conference in Boulder, Colorado. In his draft abstract, Tans explains how his research suggests that carbon dioxide plays the role of a “forcing agent” in climate change. “CO2 is now generally recognized to be the main driver of climate change,” the draft reads. But people in the public affairs office, or their superiors, edit the abstract down. They also attempt to purge Tans’ presentation of the term “climate change” (see also Late September 2005). [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 68-69 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Pieter Tans, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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

NOAA public affairs officer Carmeyia Gillis mentions in an email to colleagues Kent Laborde, Jana Goldman, and John Leslie that media inquiries submitted to the Climate Prediction Center concerning climate change should first be cleared by senior political administrators James R. Mahoney or Ahsha Tribble. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 17 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Carmeyia Gillis, Ahsha Tribble, James R. Mahoney, Jana Goldman, Kent Laborde, John Leslie

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

David Hofmann, a lab director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, informs research scientist Pieter Tans that anything having to do with climate change has to be cleared by the White House, including his laboratory’s website content. The deputy director will also inform Tans of this policy. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 69 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Pieter Tans, David Hofmann

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

David Shukman, a science correspondent with the BBC, requests another interview with Pieter Tans, a research scientist at the NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (see October 2004-March 24, 2005 for the first interview). The request is granted only on the condition that NOAA press officer Kent Laborde is present during the interview. Laborde has to fly out to the interview location from Washington, DC. When Tans asks Laborde if he is required to report on the interview, Laborde says no. The Government Accountability Project will later interview Tans about the experience and report, “Tans found it unusual that NOAA public affairs would allow such extensive travel, at taxpayer expense, simply to listen in on a media interview and not report on the proceedings.” [Washington Post, 4/6/2006; 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

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

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