At times during Harvey, the European model outperformed humans

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Enlarge / Which model did the best job of forecasting Harvey has a hurricane? The European model, of course.

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As a resident of Houston and a meteorologist, I closely tracked the development or Hurricane Harvey for much of the month of August. As part of that, I watched every new cycle of forecast model runs to determine which one handled the track forecast best.

— Eric Berger (@SpaceCityWX) August 30, 2017

The European model is the best forecasting system in the world for several reasons, most notably because the European modeling center has invested heavily in their model. It has the most advanced computer hardware and has devised the best system to assimilate real-time meteorological observations into its model for future runs. This means the model runs start with the most accurate initial conditions.

Digging into the data

After the storm made its final landfall and moved into the Louisiana coast, I wondered if my casual observation of the European model’s performance matched the data. I reached out to Brian Tang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Albany who keeps real-time statistics on model performance. Here is the data on Hurricane Harvey and the model performance. Tang confirmed that, overall, the European model had shone brightly during Harvey.

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