Hungarian National Meteorological Service officials fired after poor forecast



Two senior officials of Hungary’s National Meteorological Service (NMS) were fired on Monday after severe storms they had predicted for the capital on the country’s most important national holiday failed to materialize, moving south instead.

The forecast called for intense thunderstorms in Budapest around 9 p.m. local time, according to information from The Associated Press, leading organizers to postpone a massive annual fireworks display. The fireworks display celebrating Saint-Étienne, a public holiday that marks the founding of the country, is usually watched by more than a million people.

After the erroneous forecasts, the Hungarian media criticized the agency. The NMS has issued an apology on its Facebook page the next day, but it was too late to save the jobs of the head of the agency, Kornelia Radics, and his deputy, Gyula Horvath.

On Tuesday morning, 17 agency leaders again released a statement about the weather service Facebook page to demand that their dismissed colleagues be reinstated as soon as possible, claiming that the dismissals were politically motivated and that the forecasts were issued on the basis of the best possible information at the time.

“We strongly believe that, despite considerable pressure from decision makers, our colleagues … have provided the best of their knowledge and are not liable for any alleged or actual damages,” the statement said.

Bob Ryan, former president of the American Meteorological Society, told the Washington Post that the shooting sends a “chilling message” to professional scientists.

“I think it’s outrageous and now all the forecasters working in Hungary are afraid of losing their jobs because of a bad forecast,” Ryan said.

Matt Lanza, who runs Houston’s Space City Weather, said the inherent complexities of weather make a completely accurate forecast nearly impossible.

“Like everyone else, a meteorologist should be held accountable for their performance on the job,” Lanza said. “But unless they discharge their duties in a negligent or insubordinate manner, it would be unjustifiable to fire a forecaster on the basis of that forecast alone.”

This is not the first time that scientists have come under pressure from their government.

During the “Sharpiegate” controversy, when President Donald Trump posted a falsified forecast for 2019’s Hurricane Dorian, several National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials feared they would be fired for complying with their scientific integrity policy.

Trump had mistakenly tweeted that Alabama could be in the storm system’s path, a decision he and his cabinet members have stood by despite NOAA forecasts showing little to no impact in that state from the storm. .

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This month, the dismissal of a top environment official in Brazil caught the world’s attention. Samuel Vieira de Souza, director of the Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA, has been fired in what the AP reported was a possible act of political retaliation after he sat down for an interview with a Brazilian TV channel to discuss illegal gold mining in the Amazon.

President Jair Bolsonaro has pushed to further open the Amazon to legal economic activity, and some have criticized his Amazon policies, which have worsened deforestation – Brazil’s main source of greenhouse gas emissions.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un angry at weather forecasters

In another incident, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to get angry with members of his country’s meteorological service, berating them a month after a severe drought hit the country in 2014.

“It is necessary to fundamentally improve the work of the Hydrometeorological Service to scientifically clarify weather and climate conditions and provide accurate data for weather forecasts and weather and climate information required by various areas of the national economy in a timely manner”, Kim reportedly said.

In another case, six Italian seismologists were jailed and convicted of manslaughter in 2012 after a long legal battle over their failure to predict a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in 2009 that killed 308 people. Their sorrows were later reversedand the seismologists were exonerated.

Seismic technology could limit fatalities. Afghanistan shows that it is not easy.

The test surprised many in the scientific community, as earthquakes are difficult, if not impossible, to predict – although some say progress has been made. Scientists have been able to develop programs that can give limited warning of earthquakes, including California’s ShakeAlert system.


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