Trump Shares Altered National Weather Service Forecast Map of Hurricane Dorian

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a hurricane track chart with Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan as he talks to reporters during a status report meeting on Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Donald Trump is drawing criticism for sharing a week-old National Weather Service map that had been altered to show the track of Hurricane Dorian extending further into the Gulf coast than had previously been predicted.

Trump displayed the map before reporters on Wednesday during briefing on Hurricane Dorian from the Oval Office of the White House.

The map, which is dated Thursday, August 29, 2019, included a seemingly hand-drawn, black semi-circle extending the 5-day cone into southwestern Georgia and parts of Alabama. The map was handed to him by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan as President Trump explained “the original chart” that showed Dorian possibly heading into the Gulf of Mexico.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

People on social media are speculating that the map was altered to prove President Trump’s false claim on Twitter that the storm threatened Alabama.

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!” – @realDonaldTrump (Sept 1, 2019)

A video of the odd exchange was shared by the White House’s official Twitter account:

Some on Twitter have pointed out that altering a National Weather Service forecast map is in violation of federal law, specifically 18 U.S. Code §?20, which states:

Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.

Of course, a real forecast map issued by the National Weather Service around the time of the Oval Office briefing showed Hurricane Dorian off the northeastern Florida coast, moving towards Georgia and South Carolina.

Many people have attempted to defend President Trump’s statements by claiming the NWS forecasts had changed over time, with earlier maps showing Dorian possibly headed into the Gulf of Mexico. The video below however debunks those claims, showing that the 5-day cone never entered Alabama and the NWS forecasts remained surprisingly accurate throughout the duration of the storm:

For those of you still skeptical curious, here is the NWS National Hurricane Center’s Advisory 21 from August 29, 2019, the same one President Trump presented today (September 4) in the Oval Office:

Update: President Trump has responded on Twitter, sharing a “spaghetti” map from the South Florida Water Management Services District:

However, the above map contains the disclaimer “NHC Advisories and Count Emergency Management statement supersede this product. This graphic should complement, not replace, NHC discussions. If anything on this graphic causes confusion, ignore the entire product,” which I think would apply in this case. 

Again, below is President Trump’s version of the September briefing map (from Aug 29):

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

And the official NWS version: