Warm moist air from the Gulf had nothing to do with the NE storm. There’s plenty of warm moist air right off the coast there, in the Atlantic. A “nor’easter” is caused by a low pressure developing and deepening off the coast of the mid-Atlantic states. This latest storm had many meteorological features that indicated such a low would not only form, but stall: another low pressure moving down from Canada and another one moving up from the Gulf.
I live in SC so I’m not familiar as to which cities, if any, got a lot of snow, but I understand many did. I also understand that temperatures remained a little too high in many places for it to snow, and it began as rain. In addition, even where it was below freezing, it was above freezing at cloud level, and they had sleet or freezing rain. That was a very tricky forecast, as it depended upon the exact position of the Low. Apparently, it was in a position that threw a lot of warm air from the ocean, enough to raise the temperatures sufficiently.
I don’t think you can fault the computers completely. It’s the data that is imputed or the program. I know here that during the hurricane system, meteorologists use over half a dozen computers to predict the path of a hurricane, and it is rare that all of them agree. Weathermen get a lot of flack down here, too, when a predicted hurricane doesn’t hit us, or remains in the ocean. Then everybody reacts the same as you guys: Hey, why did they scare us so? You caused us to board up the house, stock up, etc. for nothing. I say better safe than sorry.
In the hurricane scenario, the same data is inputed to different computers. It is how the computers are programmed to interpret that data that makes the difference.
Just a few months ago, a marathon in Raleigh was postponed because a terrific snowstorm was predicted. The organizers were in a quandary. Would it better to go ahead and try to hold the race with so many people coming from all over the country? The police said they could not patrol the course if they had a snowstorm. So they postponed it. And everybody with prepaid rooms, etc. had to go home. You guessed it. It didn’t snow.
Weathermen say they are right 80% of the time. But what is their criteria? If they predict p.c. skies with 40% chance of rain, and it is mostly fair with no rain, are they wrong? Or if it is p.c. and it doesn’t rain, are they 60% correct?
As to which is better, the Weather Bureau or some private organization, such as Accuweather, I haven’t noticed much difference. If you access Accuweather on the web, you will notice that they predict the temp., sky condition, and precipitation (if any) for every hour in the day. I’ve relied upon their temp. forecast to wear the appropriate clothing at a tennis game, much to my chagrin, when they were totally wrong. I have not noticed that any of their hourly predicted temperatures are accurate.
If you access http://www.weather.com you will see that they now have an extended extended forecast, similar to what Accuweather has had. You can take those forecasts to the bank.