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Weather may be the ultimate wildcard in deciding outcome of Super Bowl XLVIII

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Mother Nature and the potential she has to impact Super Bowl XLVIII is a hot topic as the game draws nearer. No matter what happens in the contest between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, it is almost certain the game will be the coldest NFL championship ever played and possibly the snowiest.

With the game still more than eight days away, weather forecasts are less than certain about what conditions will be on game day. However a look at historical statistics from the National Weather Service for the New Jersey / New York area provide some clues.

Using 1981 to 2010 climate averages, the normal high temperature for February 2 as measured at Newark is 40 degrees. The average low is a chilly 25 degrees.

The warmest February 2nd in Newark occurred in 1973 when the mercury climbed to 62 degrees. The coldest was a bone chilling 2 degrees below zero in 1961.

The coldest kickoff temperature in Super Bowl history occurred on January 16, 1972. Played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, the temperatures at the start of that game was a chilly 39 degrees on the field.

This year on the day of the game the sun will rise at 7:06 a.m. and set at 5:16 p.m. With kickoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST, the contest will be starting under the lights at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Given the start after sundown and the average temperatures, it certainly is likely this year’s game will go into the books as having the coldest kickoff temperature.

Snowfall is another wildcard that could impact the game, the first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl ever played.

Other Super Bowls have been played in cold climates and snow has fallen in those locations on the day of the game but they were all in domed stadiums. MetLife Stadium provides no such shelter.

Should snow fall during the game, it would be the first time the white stuff intruded on America’s biggest sporting event.

Over the climate normal period used by the National Weather Service (1981 – 2010), snow fell on February 2 only four times during the 30 year period. The greatest amount was 3.4 inches in 1985.

Overall precipitation chances increase when you add rain to the historical chances. Fourteen times precipitation (rain and snow melt) was recorded on the date from 1981 to 2010, nearly half the time.

The National Weather Service pegs the chance of 0.01” or more precipitation falling on the date at 33%.

The winds at MetLife Stadium could very well prove to be as much of a factor as the temperatures or any type of precipitation. They serve to make cold temperatures feel colder and impact throwing and kicking.

The wind data for Newark is incomplete for the 30 year climate average period but it does at least provide some clues as to what to expect. In fact, looking at the numbers, breezy winds appear to be almost a certainty.

Over a 27 year period, the average daily wind speed on February 2 was 10.1 mph. Over 16 years within the period, the average maximum wind gust was 27.0 mph.

In the end, historical weather data indicates this year’s Super Bowl will be cold and winds will likely be breezy. Less certain is whether any precipitation will fall and what form it will take.

Newark, New Jersey Weather and Astronomical Data for February 2

Sunrise: 7:06 a.m. EST
Sunset: 5:16 p.m. EST

Moonrise: 8:30 a.m.
Moonset: 8:59 p.m.

1981 to 2010 normals
Normal high: 40
Normal low: 25
Record high: 62 (1973)
Record low: -2 (1961)

Average precipitation: 0.11”
Average snow: 0.4”
Record precipitation: 2.36” (1973)
Record snowfall: 3.4” (1985)
Probability of precip >= .01” 33.0%

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