(NOAA image)

Protesters, including survivors of Hurricane Katrina, launched a 37-hour vigil outside the headquarters of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration today, calling for the agency’s head to resign for “covering up” an alleged scientific link between severe storms and global warming.

The demonstrators, noting the start of the hurricane season, also want the resignation of the National Hurricane Center’s director, Max Mayfield.

The protest in Silver Spring, Md., near Washington, will continue through tomorrow at midnight, with picketing during the day and a candlelight vigil at night.

It is organized by a newly formed non-profit group called the U.S. Climate Emergency Council, which argues that of the six most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. in the past 150 years, three occurred within 52 days last year.

“Yet, despite a flurry of peer-reviewed scientific studies linking planetary warming to storms like Katrina, leaders at NOAA and the NHC continue to claim that the recent hurricane devastation is part of a ‘natural cycle,'” the group says.

U.S. Climate Emergency Council says it condemns the response as an abdication of government responsibility when “millions of Americans are increasingly vulnerable to violent storms in a warmer world.”

Climate scientists at NOAA are being intimidated from talking to the press and their papers are being withheld from publication under the directorship of President Bush’s friend and political appointee, Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., the group contends.

“These actions at NOAA and the NHC are part of an obvious political campaign orchestrated by the White House to avoid the serious cuts in fossil fuel use scientists say are needed to fight global warming. But by ignoring the science and denying the warming on behalf of Exxon Mobil and other major oil corporations, the Bush administration is putting millions more Americans this year and for years to come at great risk for experiencing the kind of suffering and loss seen throughout the Gulf Coast in 2005.”

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