TODAY   |  February 08, 2013

Why does ‘European model’ predict weather better?

The Northeast is bracing for one of the worst snowstorms in years, and the European forecasting model is getting attention for being more accurate in projecting the path of storms than its American counterpart. NBC’s Tom Costello is in Washington, D.C., to find out why the American weather prediction system is lagging behind.

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

>> have been canceled. this storm has drawn a lot of attention to the european model, which has been more accurate than the american version in projecting the path of storms. we asked nbc's tom costello in washington to find out why. good morning, tom.

>> reporter: hi, natalie. good morning to you. it all comes down to computing power. europeans and americans are using the same science, same mathematical equations, but the europeans are constantly monitoring the atmospheric conditions while the american model is taking periodic snapshots. it was hurricane sandy that really pointed out the difference between the european and american models. al roker saw a full week before the storm hit the european model was predicting a devastating blow to new york and new jersey.

>> the european model keeps it hugging the coast and by early tuesday morning, it's inland in the northeast.

>> reporter: four days before landfall, the u.s. model finally agreed with the european model. now, a crippling blizzard predicted for new england.

>> easily boston, a foot will be on the low end of your accumulation.

>> reporter: and, again, the european model was three days ahead of the u.s. in predicting this storm's path.

>> we've got a developing clipper over the plains, a lot of wet weather through the gulf. these two systems will phase together or merge. the european model forms this storm closer to shore.

>> reporter: the new director of the national weather service is well aware.

>> we have a very good numerical model, but there are modeling systems in the world that are considered better than ours.

>> reporter: why is the european system more accurate? experts say because it is constantly slicing the world's atmosphere into very small grids, then analyzing data like temperature readings, pressure, sbhumtd wind changes and the european super computer is far more powerful, running 100 forecasting models a day, compared to 84 on the u.s. computer. there a there are two parts to the modeling process, running the ooh equations and slicing the atmosphere. the second is taking all the data around the world and putting it into the model to start off in the first place.

>> the u.s. is upgrading its computer system in the fall. even then it still won't be as powerful as the european system. now the good news is that the u.s., europe, canada and the uk, we all share all of this data. we're all benefiting from each other's data and satellite information, but we are still lagging behind the european system right now. natalie?

>> reporter: very interesting. tom costello in washington, thanks so much.