TODAY   |  March 09, 2013

Are European forecasts better than American?

A week before Hurricane Sandy made landfall, the American weather model was predicting the storm would continue heading out into the Atlantic. It was the Europeans who first foresaw that historic and devastating left hook. Which model is better? TODAY’s Al Roker reports.

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

>>> it comes to predicting the path of the biggest storms, the super computers in europe seem to have ours beat. why the difference? al roker takes a look.

>> reporter: they were dire warnings that shut down the nation's capital.

>> our biggest snowfall in two years. can you believe it?

>> reporter: 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 don't need either.

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

>> hold on to the camera, brad --

>> reporter: was left in the snowless capital.

>> no snow anywhere to be found.

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

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

>> reporter: 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 at that slip during the '80s and '90s as we didn't invest enough.

>> reporter: the europeans have invested heavily in weather forecasting with ten times the computing ability of the national weather service . while meteorologists rely on more than just computer modwhels making predictions, a rash of recent winter storms 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 indicated it would head out into the atlantic. it was the europeans who first foresaw that historic and devastating left hook.

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

>> dylan, which do you rely on as a meteorologist? what do you look to?

>> the thing with the european model, it will name a storm -- it will nail a storm a week in advance. it's hard to believe a model that far in advance. say, yeah, we'll have a record-breaking storm a week in advance. i think i do tend to follow the european model, but it's murphy's law. every time i'm like, i'm going on all board with the european model, the american model is right. that's what we do as meteorologists, give and take with the models, and try and nail it down by the time of the storm . this storm , maybe not.

>> maybe not. thanks.

>> do you know what i -- i do a 50/50. i go 50/50. i like models in europe and the states. i flupip a coin --

>> that's why dylan does what