Weather Blog

Would a Super Bowl in Seattle likely have miserable weather?

Would a Super Bowl in Seattle likely have miserable weather?

Traditionally, Super Bowls have been played either in Florida, Arizona or California -- spots where you would expect to find warm, sunny weather in the dead of winter -- or if in more northern locales, in a domed stadium.

But this year at least, the NFL is trying something different. The 2014 Super Bowl is being held in Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey just outside New York City -- about as synonymous to warm, sunny weather in February as Canada. And at least if the Farmer's Almanac is right, it might look like a poor choice with predictions of a big snowstorm there the weekend of Feb. 2.

But now that the precedent has been set for a northern team in an outdoor stadium to host a Super Bowl, why not Seattle? The odds of a February super snow storm hitting here during a Super Bowl are certainly less than New Jersey's (although admittedly, not zero).

I'll bet NFL officials would instead worry it'd probably be a drenching rain storm (with zig-zagging lightning!) and 45 mph winds with shivering, water-logged fans because that's what most people who don't live here probably think of a Seattle winter... and some days they'd be right.

But just last week, I presented research showing it's only snowed twice on Seahawks regular season home games and even rain is somewhat rare. And early February, while typically colder than the October-December regular season games, is a little drier overall than autumn and early winter in Seattle.

So using similar hourly data from nearby Boeing Field* from my original research, I set out to see just how the weather was on the first Sunday in February (the current schedule for when a Super Bowl is played) over the past 30 years, which is the time period NOAA uses to set climate averages.

Still a good chance of a dry game

Since 1982, it has rained on eight Super Bowl dates of the past 30 years, or 26.7%. That number is a little higher than the 20% rate found on actual regular season games but still says roughly 3 in 4 hypothetical Super Bowls played in Seattle would have been dry.

And of those eight, only five were those really wet, drenching Seattle days. The worst would have been if the Seahawks hosted in Feb. 2005 which had nearly a half inch of rain leading up to kickoff (assuming roughly 3:30 p.m. PST) and then another quarter inch during the game itself -- wetter than any actual regular season game played at CenturyLink. Oh, and the wind chill was 34 degrees with an actual temperature of 41. Three other dates (1983, 1991, and 1992) had over a tenth of an inch that afternoon and the fifth-wettest date (0.06") had wind gusts of 25-38 mph during the game.

So it comes as no surprise we're not as safe a bet as Phoenix and Los Angeles to have a nice sunny game. But looking at the "glass full" numbers, it's not a terrible bet either. Just as many rainy games ended up sunny to partly cloudy (8), with the other 14 games either mostly cloudy (4) or overcast (10). One of those overcast "games" (1994) was also fairly foggy.

But perhaps most importantly, it's never snowed on a hypothetical Seattle Super Bowl over the past 30 years. Meanwhile, the Meadowlands has a 29% chance of snow on the ground during that weekend with an average snow depth of 3.6 inches.

It'd likely be warmer in Seattle than New Jersey too...

According to weatherspark.com, the average evening temperature at the Meadowlands is about 33-34° in early February.

But guess what? In Seattle, only *four* games would have been played in temperatures in the 30s or colder. Two of those games were sunny but with cold, northerly winds with 1989 having a kickoff temperature of 36° and a game-time low of 32° with a wind chill of 23.2°. A hypothetical game in 1985 would have started at 35° with the temp dropping to 28° by the end. That one had a wind chill of 22°.

Other temperature tidbits:

  • 14 of the 30 games had a temperature that reached at least 50°, with five of those staying above 50 through the game.
  • Three of the eight rainy games came when the temperature was at least 50° to start the game. (One had a brief thunderstorm. Don't tell Al Michaels.)
  • 13 of the 30 games had a temperature that started in the 40s, with 9 of them staying in the 40s through the game.
  • Only five games had a wind chill of 35° or below (two in the 20s, but both were sunny days)
  • The average high was 48.4° and the average coldest temp was 44.5°.

NFL: Don't sweat the weather!

The NFL takes other city logistics into effect besides weather in awarding a Super Bowl, such as hotel rooms and transportation capacity, but I think with a track record of having a 3 in 4 chance of dry weather, meteorology concerns shouldn't be too high on the list.

Besides, there is precedent a Super Bowl in Seattle could be played under sunshine and 64°, as it was that weekend in 1993. Bet that ends up better than what it'll be in New Jersey!

*Hourly rainfall data for dates prior to 1998 were used at Sea-Tac Airport as weather equipment at Boeing Field did not report hourly rainfall totals before then.