Politics and Climate Science in Georgia

Climatology is the study of long-term weather (known as “climate”) and its effects. Sounds straightforward, right? When I was at the University of Oklahoma studying for my degree in meteorology, climatology was a bit of a weak cousin to meteorology (the study of weather plus forecasting the weather).

OU offered only one course in climatology. While I took that course, I thought I needed to know more so, shortly after college, I actually purchased a textbook on applied climatology because I thought I’d use it throughout my career. Turned out I was correct. Climatology is a very useful discipline for making many decisions. 

In the 1970's, little did any of us suspect that climatology would end up being the political hot potato it has become today. As Meteorological Musings’ readers know, this is a non-political blog. I dislike politics and climate science has been corrupted by politics and politicians.

So, imagine my shock when I learned that my friend, colleague, superbly qualified climatologist, Pam Knox, had been removed from her position as Georgia Assistant State Climatologist by Governor Nathan Deal. In addition to Pam, the State Climatologist, David Stooksbury, was also removed.

How well qualified is Pam? Take a look at her qualifications:

Pam Knox has served in state climatology offices for nearly twenty years, having been the State Climatologist of Wisconsin from 1989-1998 and Assistant State Climatologist of Georgia from 2001-present.
Knox was elected president of the American Association of State Climatologists in 1996, becoming the first-ever woman to hold this national title. As of January 2012 she will be the Chair of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Committee on Continuing Professional Development, and has previously served on the AMS Committee on Applied Climatology.
Her professional experience and expertise relevant to climatology research and outreach includes: two years at the National Weather Service Office of Hydrology in Silver Spring, MD, where she studied extremely heavy precipitation events; service on national boards related to water data and water quality; extended exchange program visits to the National Climatic Data Center; and internships as an aide in the Wisconsin State Legislature, and as a researcher & producer for the National Public Radio nationally syndicated science program “Science Friday.”
In addition, Knox is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and for the past decade has worked on numerous court cases; in August 2011 she was the subject of a live interview on The Weather Channel regarding her work in forensic meteorology. Knox has authored or co-authored 30 publications, including peer-reviewed articles in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. She has also taught meteorology and physics at the college level at Calvin College (instructor) and Valparaiso University (adjunct assistant professor).
What is behind the Governor’s decision? He hasn’t said. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports,

Deal with no public announcement signed an executive order Tuesday appointing a state employee to take over the climatologist's job, which for years had been housed at the University of Georgia in Athens. The new state climatologist, Bill Murphey, works in a meteorology unit for the state's Environmental Protection Division in Atlanta.

Surprisingly, ‘global warming’ does not seem to be behind the surprising move. Apparently, statements like this (August 31, 2011) were too controversial,

“The outlook for near-term drought relief is not promising,” David Emory Stooksbury, state climatologist and a University of Georgia professor of engineer and atmospheric sciences, said in a news release.
“Unless Georgia experiences some tropical weather over the next few months, the state can expect below-normal rainfall and above-normal temperatures,” Stooksbury said.
This means soil will get even more parched, stream flows and reservoir levels will keep dropping and the chances of wildfire “are expected to remain high to extreme,” he said.

Drought is bad for some businesses and the governor – apparently -- did not like the way Georgia’s drought was being characterized. So, the governor decided to replace David and Pam.

As described in The Georgia Report,

In many states, government employees with that admirable record of expertise and achievements would be commended and rewarded.
In Georgia, they get fired, which is what Gov. Nathan Deal did to Stooksbury and Knox last week. Deal not only dismissed them, he didn’t bother to tell them that they had been replaced and the governor’s office has provided no credible explanation for why they were so abruptly canned.
Deal signed an executive order on Tuesday ordering the appointment of two mid-level employees from the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to replace Stooksbury and Knox. The governor evidently was a little embarrassed by what he did, because his office did not make any public announcement of the personnel change. When asked repeatedly by reporters for the reasons why Deal fired two people so expert in climatology, the governor’s spokesman robotically repeated the same prepared talking point over and over: “EPD is a natural home for this function. It’s a rational consolidation.” He would say nothing more.
To add insult to injury, Deal never bothered to contact either climatologist to tell them that they had been fired.
“I have still not heard directly from the governor’s office,” Stooksbury said during an interview more than three days after Deal signed the order to replace him. He said he first learned of his change in employment status when “I got a call from somebody out of state who said, ‘I see you’ve been replaced.’”

In Oregon, the state climatologist was replaced by Democrats who did not like the fact he was skeptical about ‘global warming.’

The Georgia Report speculates this is why Knox and Stooksbury were replaced by a Republican governor but for the opposite reason. While there is no indication that global warming was an issue in Georgia, their replacement is unwarranted political interference.

Politics continues to corrupt climate science. It is destructive, a shame, and it needs to stop. 


  1. Certain industries in Georgia -- particularly those who grow and sell plants for landscaping -- don't like drought forecasts because they can lead to water restrictions and reduced sales.

  2. Note: A comment was deleted due to being off topic.

  3. Yes, but you also understand that those who do get the rain benefit from the ones who are under extreme drought. I also hate politics, I've been a state employee too, and politics/business is everywhere and are connected so hard it's pitiful, just as when I was younger, I thought people who studied business were taking the easy road in college, but now I understand that everywhere you go and everything you do in life is business.

    There should be a weather party or something where climate scientists have the power!!! LOL! Do you believe in HAARP located near the north pole with it's ELF(s)? lol, I kinda do, but I never really believe in Santa Claus, so go figure. What I want to point out is in August I was watching the radar site on accuweather and there was something around the St. Louis airport that sent out beams (they showed up as green rain on the return) into storms approaching from the west and sometimes extend all the way into south-central Iowa border; whether or not they're false radar returns or whether the cell got picked off by air currents and backbuilt or whatever is not for me to decipher, I just know I was watching the system I was making when the beam in St. Louis knocked a small cell off a larger cell and knocked it backwards about 50 miles in about an hour. I think I have a screenshot somewhere...I took close to a thousand screenshots that nite, so I'd have to dig for it; anyway, I'm sure you're doing your blog for your business, so I'm not going to harass you about connecting with me, but I think your blog is pretty cool. I do want to ask a favor of you, could you identify what is going on in the pictures on my blogspot? arkansasrainmaker.blogspot.com. I would appreciate just a little help.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. I just deleted a comment about the IPCC that I agree with. Comments must pertain to the topic of the post.

    You are welcome to post that comment on one of my postings about the IPCC


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