Many fans of science were alarmed on Tuesday by a series of reports that the Trump administration had imposed communications blackouts on many of the government's science agencies. Memos sent out to employees of the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other branches instructed employees to immediately stop communicating with the press or posting anything on social media. Some of these memos also indicated that previously autonomous social media accounts would be put under more centralized control.
The EPA was also subject to an immediate freeze on grants, leading many to speculate that the gag orders were meant to prevent the public from becoming aware of the White House's plans for the government's science interests. And a disturbing development this afternoon certainly makes that theory seem more likely.
An anonymous employee at Badlands National Park in South Dakota began spontaneously posting a series of facts about climate change from the park's official Twitter account. Although that account has periodically posted about the climate in the past, in general it is used to share harmless images of the park's natural beauty. Today's uncharacteristically dire tweets continued for several hours. Then they abruptly stopped, and were all deleted without explanation. But not before many Twitter users screenshotted them.
Many Twitter users expressed support for whoever posted the tweets.
Although there's no proof that this incident was related to the Trump administration, the similarity to an incident earlier this week is too eerie to ignore. In that case, the Twitter account of the National Parks Service tweeted an image comparing the crowd sizes of Donald Trump and Barack Obama's inaugurations. The White House forced the NPS to delete the tweet, and briefly banned the agency from tweeting entirely.
As the news this week has proved, President Trump is enraged by any mention of the fact that his inauguration, and his administration, are much less popular than Obama's. Could he feel the same way about climate change, which he continues to describe as a Chinese hoax? If so, government scientists have a lot to be worried about.