Nightly News   |  March 08, 2013

European weather forecasts superior to US models

The predictions from European computer models, which have 10 times the computing ability of the National Weather Service, have increasingly become more accurate than our models with the starkest example being Hurricane Sandy. NBC’s Al Roker reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> boston mayor tom mu neono is defending his decision not to close the schools there today despite a snowstorm. he says he got conflicting forecasts. and when severe weather is approaching, when you hear us talk about the european models, we don't mean anyone who wears fancy clothes walking down a runway. those multicolored spaghetti lines on the weather maps when big storms are approaching, those are all computer models , predictions. some are from our government forecasters, but increasingly, the european computer models have been more accurate about our weather. we wanted to know why. we asked the one guy to explain this. you love your computer models , al roker .

>> i absolutely do, brian. good to see you. well, weather forecasting was invented in america by benjamin franklin , but meteorologists, especially since superstorm sandy warn we may be falling behind. they were dire warnings that shut down the nation's capital.

>> our biggest snowfall in two years.

>> forecasters promising washington's worst storm in two years. but that didn't happen.

>> the question is, tom, do we need the push broom or the great big shovel out here. we really don't need either.

>> reporter: and the weather channel 's jim cantore , known best for braving weather like this --

>> oh, hold on to that camera, brad.

>> was left in a snowless capital.

>> no snow on the ground. there's none in the trees, no piles anywhere here to be found.

>> cliff, mass is an atmospheric science professor at the university of washington .

>> 24 hours out, 36 hours out, there was these differences. that really made a difference between rain and snow. the european was going for less precipitation.

>> he says wednesday's storm is just the latest example of the shortcomings of u.s. weather prediction .

>> we led the world for decades. but we let that lead slip during the '80s and '90s as we didn't invest enough.

>> the europeans have invested heavily in weather forecasting with ten times the computing ability of the national weather service . but while meteorologists rely on more than just computer models when making predictions, a rash of recent winter storm in boston and oklahoma have highlighted the superiority of european storm modeling.

>> the european model keeps it hugging the coast.

>> the starkest example, hurricane sandy. a week before the storm made landfall, the american model was predicting it would continue heading out into the atlantic. but it was the europeans who first forsaw that historic and devastating left hook.

>> we have a very gnu mer california models, but there are modeling systems in the world that are considered better than ours.

>> which is a devastating admission. the national weather service is in the process of upgrading its computer systems , should have more powerful system online in september. the critics say, even with that, brian, it still is going to lag behind its european counterparts.

>> really glad we did this story. we talk about this all of the time. al roker , thanks. good to see you.

>> you too.