As Hurricane Dorian bore down on the Atlantic coast on Wednesday (Sept. 4), meteorologists suddenly found themselves facing an unexpected hurricane hazard: a president with a Sharpie pen.
In a White House briefing, President Donald Trump held up a hurricane advisory map from Thursday (Aug. 29) showing Dorian's five-day "cone of uncertainty" potentially passing over Florida. At the end of the cone was a addendum: a loop drawn with a black Sharpie covering Alabama. The doctored map was in defense of a tweet the president had made on Sunday (Sept. 1) warning that Alabama was in harm's way.
"In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!" the president tweeted on Sunday.
By Sunday, though, the forecasts had improved, and meteorologists were already predicting that Dorian would veer north, brushing along the Florida coast before heading toward the Carolinas — no chance of it hitting Alabama. The National Hurricane Center had released a map, Hurricane Dorian Advisory #032A, to this effect before the president's tweet. (The map shown in the Sept. 4 Oval Office briefing was Advisory #21.)
The president's doubling down on his error sparked surprise, hilarity and some outrage across Weather and Science Twitter. Here's a roundup of reactions:
The President of the United States altered a National Hurricane Center map with a sharpie to falsely extend the official forecast toward Alabama so he didn't have to admit he was wrong in a tweet. https://t.co/i0CJcYV4yq pic.twitter.com/pR57IL6WfTSeptember 4, 2019
Isn't altering the official forecast map illegal? https://t.co/rQhgou3fJ4 pic.twitter.com/aKe6nmKKfySeptember 4, 2019
Can't let this go unnoticed. @realDonaldTrump displayed a doctored version of the @NHC_Atlantic forecast for #Dorian. The black extension past Florida did not exist; that's not how forecast cones are drawn. pic.twitter.com/GqHikOBYU6September 4, 2019
We have found a solution to the #ClimateCrisis! #sharpiegate pic.twitter.com/5ZeS6Pux0BSeptember 5, 2019
Praying for Ohio. #sharpiegate #dorianhurricane pic.twitter.com/W9pHOZbGwaSeptember 4, 2019
BRB— redoing messed up snowfall maps in Colorado 😂 https://t.co/voLehrVqbHSeptember 4, 2019
How long do you think a forecaster would keep their job if they tried altering a forecast after the fact. A day or two?I don't want to test my own hypothesis 😂September 4, 2019
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Originally published on Live Science.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.