Fox falsely claims government is not forecasting future movement of oil spill
Research ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG
Fox & Friends aired a computer simulation by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) illustrating one possible scenario of the oil spill's future movement and criticized the Obama administration because the simulation "was not done by the federal government," which Steve Doocy claimed doesn't "even know where the oil's going to go in the future." In fact, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is producing daily forecasts of oil movement, and NCAR is a federally sponsored research institution.
Doocy falsely claims federal government is not modeling future movement of oil spill
Doocy faults government for not producing NCAR's oil projection and suggests NOAA is not tracking "where the oil's going to go in the future." From the June 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: Is the government prepared for where the oil's going to go next? Well does it seem like it? I mean that's a really cool animation but that was not done by the federal government. You know they've got that wing, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. They generally do stuff like that but that thing that we just saw was done by some folks out in Boulder, the computer models were from the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
The president has been accused of being flat-footed, and here they don't even know where the oil's going to go in the future. If it's going to go, as Gretch said earlier to the Carolinas, shouldn't they be dispatching stuff to the Carolinas? That seems like a no-brainer doesn't it?
In fact, federal agencies are tracking oil, producing daily forecasts
NOAA produces daily trajectory forecasts of oil movement. NOAA states that it "is predicting the oil spill's trajectory and the path of the layers of oil floating on the surface. OR&R experts are conducting aerial surveys to update trajectory maps and visually track the movement of the spill." NOAA releases daily trajectory maps, which "predict where the oil is most likely to go and how soon it may arrive there":
Using currents and winds predictions from a variety of sources, as well as available observations, the NOAA oceanographers run several leading computer models to forecast the movement and spreading of the oil. They also use satellite imagery analysis and observations reported by trained observers who have made helicopter overflights back and forth across the potentially affected area, recording locations where oil is seen.
According to the Department of Energy, NOAA scientists believe that "projections of specific impacts more than three days in advance tend to be unreliable because of the many uncertainties involved."
NASA satellites producing images of oil spill. According to NASA, "Two NASA satellites are capturing images of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico." The data from NASA is reportedly being used by NOAA.
NCAR is sponsored by the federal government
NCAR is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center. The National Center for Atmospheric Research is listed as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) on the website of the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. According to the Congressional Research Service, a FFRDC "is a hybrid organization designed to meet a federal need through the use of private organizations."
NCAR research "was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor." NCAR's June 3 press release on their research states: "The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor. The results were reviewed by scientists at NCAR and elsewhere, although not yet submitted for peer-review publication."
NCAR: The animation is "not a forecast"
NCAR: "[T]he simulations are not a forecast because it is impossible to accurately predict the precise location of the oil weeks or months from now." During the segment, co-host Gretchen Carlson referred to NCAR's research as "predictions." However, a disclaimer included in NCAR's animation states: "The results presented here are intended for research guidance only. They are not a forecast of where the oil will go, but a scenario of what might happen if the loop current is in a typical configuration." Also, from NCAR's June 3 press release:
[NCAR scientist Synte] Peacock and her colleagues stress that the simulations are not a forecast because it is impossible to accurately predict the precise location of the oil weeks or months from now. Instead, the simulations provide an envelope of possible scenarios for the oil dispersal. The timing and course of the oil slick will be affected by regional weather conditions and the ever-changing state of the Gulf's Loop Current--neither of which can be predicted more than a few days in advance. The dilution of the oil relative to the source will also be impacted by details such as bacterial degradation, which are not included in the simulations.
What is possible, however, is to estimate a range of possible trajectories, based on the best understanding of how ocean currents transport material. The oil trajectory that actually occurs will depend critically both on the short-term evolution of the Loop Current, which feeds into the Gulf Stream, and on the state of the overlying atmosphere. The flow in the model represents the best estimate of how ocean currents are likely to respond under typical wind conditions.