The Historic World-Ending Blizzard of the Century ending up being a pretty run-of-the-mill snowstorm here, albeit an exceptionally booze-filled one. Even weathermen are apologizing for inciting riots at Trader Joe's. So how were we led so astray? And why doesn't anyone like kale?

Gothamist weather guru Joe Schumacher has provided us with some insight as to how the National Weather Service got the local forecast so wrong:

Generally snowfall amounts for a nor'easter have a whale-shaped pattern, if you draw a profile of a whale facing to the left. To the west of the storm there is almost no snow. Moving east the snowfall rapidly increases to a peak at the top of the whale's head. The snow then gradually diminishes off to the east end of the storm's path. For a lot of snow to fall on the city, the path of a nor'easter has to fall within a narrow geographic range.

Too far to the east and the city is out ahead of the whale and gets no snow. Too far to the west and the storm runs into a different problem—too much warm air and the snow changes to rain. In hindsight I should have included that caveat yesterday, but it looked to everyone like the storm would be perfectly place to produce a lot of snow. In addition to the placement, this was/is an unusually powerful nor'easter (Nantucket has had at least one >60 mph wind gust every hour for the last 11 hours), so everything was in place for record-breaking snows.

The problem is that the storm moved 50-75 miles further east than most people predicted. Eric Holthaus is saying the NWS was wrong because they relied more on the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) model than their own Global Forecast System (GFS) model. The ECMWF has the reputation for being the better model (it is what predicted Sandy's path way before any other model), but a new and improved GFS went operational just a couple of weeks ago and it better predicted the storm path and intensity.

It looks like the Weather Channel put more weight on the GFS as their snowfall predictions were much closer to what actually happened, but I have no way of verifying that assumption.

So, it's not really that the world's weather-people are under the thumb of Big Bread & Milk, but the National Weather Service meteorologists have to consider worst case scenarios. After all, if you don't triple-check that the toaster was unplugged before leaving the apartment, it's possible that the electrical outlet will short-circuit and burn down the building. Probably not, but maybe. And if we'd actually gotten clobbered, people would be pretty pissed they didn't stock up on more Fireball.

Of course, the last time a storm was this overhyped, naysayers complained that they'd never trust dire forecasts again. And then we got hit with Hurricane Sandy. It's still a good idea to unplug the toaster.