NFL Game Weather Key
September 5, 2013 at Denver, CO
Venue: Sports Authority Field
Station: Broomfield Jefferson Cty Airport (12 miles)
Hour Temp Dewpoint Humidity Wind Speed Wind Gust Windchill Windchill Gust Skycover Weather
0 84 46 27 6 mostly cloudy
1 84 45 25 mostly cloudy
2 81 46 30 4 mostly cloudy
3 82 46 28 4 mostly cloudy
MIN 81 45 25 4
MAX 84 46 30 6
Hour: 0=start of game; 1=one hour into game; 2=two hours into game; 3=three hours into game; MIN=minimum (low); MAX=maximum (high)
All temperatures are measured in Fahrenheit
All wind speeds are measured in miles per hour (mph)
Note: Most weather stations measure weather at or near the top of the hour. For games starting on at the half hour (1:30 PM, for example), three hours of weather records were obtained starting at 2 PM.
NFL Game Weather Frequent Asked Questions

What is the coldest recorded temperature for an NFL game?

-13 December 31, 1967 Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers (the "Ice Bowl" game, with a windchill reading of -36)

What is the warmest/hottest recorded temperature for an NFL game?

107 September 3, 2000 Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

What is this data and where did it come from?

This is hourly weather data for almost every NFL, AAFC, and AFL football game played since the mid-1940s, empirically sourced by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, i.e., the National Weather Service). Some data goes back to the 1937 season.

Why not check with the league? Surely the NFL tracks this information.

Actually, the NFL doesn't. At least not historically. Last time we checked, the NFL Record & Fact Book included just three games on its list of Coldest Games on Record. And while some teams list extreme weather games in their media guide, the information isn't sourced and—based on what we've seen in the empirical record—it's often wrong.

What about the gamebooks?

The weather listed in gamebooks is unreliable, so unreliable the subject warranted its own section elsewhere in this publication.

What about news accounts? Since writers report what they see at the game, wouldn't they be more accurate than conditions measured a few miles away?

For the most part, no. News accounts are wildly inconsistent, some writers are prone to exaggeration, and the weather isn't sourced.

For example, according to the Chicago Tribune, it snowed throughout the first half of the Hornets-Browns game in Cleveland on November 25, 1949 but the field itself was virtually dry since it was covered with canvas until just before game time. The account in the Cleveland Plain Dealer said the snow stopped just before game time and the field was slippery and soggy and offenses of both teams suffered.

When the Eagles squared off against the Redskins in Washington on December 6, 1953 the Chicago Tribune said the game took place in a sporadic rainfall. The Washington Post described the game as "55 minutes of scoreless, frustrating football in an incessant downpour."

Same games, materially different observations from people who were there.

And like your ratings-driven meteorologist on the local news, some writers are prone to exaggeration. Rain with a little wind is described as a monsoon. Moderate snow turns into a raging blizzard. A soft field, a quagmire.

Not that news accounts are entirely without value. If a weather station five miles from the stadium reported snow but two or three independent game summaries specifically said it did not snow, we adjusted the data. Otherwise we let the empirical record speak for itself.

You're saying writers don't check official weather sources?

They might, and often do. But what source did they check, and when did they check it? Many writers check the official weather reporting station for a metropolitan area. That's good. What isn't good is the official reporting station isn't always the closest station to the stadium. And when was it measured? An hour before the game? During the game? After the game? Too often, this ambiguity equals inaccuracy.

Wouldn't on-site measurements be more accurate than conditions measured by weather stations several miles away?

If scientifically measured, yes. But the thermometers we've all seen broiling under a hot sun or crystallizing amidst the plume of winter breath might make for good television but the readings would be questioned by meteorologists. A thermometer not properly shielded from the sun can inflate temperatures 10 to 15 degrees. Precipitation can also impact readings.

Yes, stadium weather could differ slightly from the conditions observed a few miles away, but the difference is usually not material. Until the NFL and NOAA install official weather stations at each game site we'll stick with empirically sourced data.

What makes this data more accurate?

It's empirically sourced, compiled from surface weather observations measured by NOAA weather stations closest to stadium locations that had available data for the respective year, month, day, and hour(s), and minute(s) a game was played.

Why not list wind direction?

Because the structure of a stadium can impact the wind coming into it, changing its direction. And wind direction isn't useful without knowing the direction a team is moving on the field. Due to the ambiguity, we decided not to list wind speed but not wind direction.

Is the wind chill temperature for older games based on the old or new model?

The new model. Developed in 2001 by the United States National Weather Service and Canada, the new formula is based on greater scientific knowledge and new research on how wind and cold affects people. Experts questioned the validity of the old model.

In essence, wind chills based on the new formula aren't as cold as wind chills based on the old formula. Consequently, wind chills from famous cold weather NFL games may be lower (i.e., not as cold) than what you've read or heard. But they're also more accurate.

How many weather observations are there for each game?

Most games list four. We tried to get a minimum of one weather record per hour, including starting time, for three consecutive hours, for every game. Thus, a game starting at 1 p.m. lists the weather at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m., for a total of four records covering three hours.

You're saying all pro football games averaged three hours?

No. The further you go back in history, the shorter games were in real time. Games in the 1960s may have averaged two and a half hours. Still, hourly data was at our disposal and we decided to cover three hours.

Why do some games have less than four weather records?

The frequency of weather observations varies by weather station and by year. Some stations observed weather every hour for 24 daily observations. Others measured weather every three hours for eight daily observations. We listed whatever was available for the (three hour) time period a game was played. For most games, that was four records.

I've read about weather events that happened before 1930, so records must exist. Why does this data only go back to the 1930s?

Most weather data before 1930 was taken once or twice per day. It was only the rise of aviation forecasting when the need for more frequent observations became a requirement. Since the goal of this work was to document hourly weather data at the time pro football games were played, games played before hourly records existed for a location are not included.

I noticed a weather station closer to the stadium than the one listed as being the source of the data. Is this an error?

Most likely, the closest weather station didn't have data available for the particular day or hour(s) the game was played, so we grabbed it from the next closest station.

NFL Game Weather Problems

San Diego Chargers

A significant number of Chargers games list "drizzle" conditions when the skycover is half cloudy, partly cloudy, or even clear. Since most people think of drizzle as a light rain, this looks like a contradiction or an error.

Seeing the word "drizzle" alongside sunny or partly cloudy conditions is confusing, even more so when it’s perpetually pleasant San Diego we’re talking about. But two things are at play here:

1. The scientific definition of "drizzle". The National Weather Service defines drizzle as: "Fairly uniform precipitation composed exclusively of fine drops with diameters of less than 0.5 mm very close together. Drizzle appears to float while following air currents, although unlike fog droplets, it falls to the ground." The Glossary of Meteorology (American Meteorological Society) adds, "It usually falls from low stratus clouds and is frequently accompanied by low visibility and fog."

2. The Marine Layer. A cool, moist layer of air that develops over the surface of a body of water in the presence of a temperature inversion, the marine layer is trapped beneath the warmer air above it. Wind often blows the layer ashore. Drizzle, fog or light rain is possible in the marine layer, although a marine layer can exist without any clouds. Clouds can form in the marine layer, but it is not the layers of clouds themselves.

Put another way, fine water droplets are often measured in San Diego. It’s not rain, its drizzle from the marine layer, and it can exist in partly sunny and even sunny conditions.

Be aware of the meteorological definition of drizzle and the weather forces at play in San Diego when reviewing Chargers weather.

Los Angeles Rams / Los Angeles Raiders

Weather for Rams and Raiders games played in the Los Angeles Coliseum were taken from KLAX (Los Angeles International Airport), about eight miles away. Though not a significant distance in terms of varying weather phenomena for other parts of the country, temperature differences between KLAX and the area in which the Coliseum resides can be material; Coliseum area temperatures are often much warmer. Unfortunately, hourly weather data for KCQT (USC/Downtown), less than one mile away, exists only for years beginning in 1999. The Rams played in the Coliseum from 1946-1979; the Raiders from 1982-1994.

Marine layer forces (see above) also impact KLAX weather observations, although apparently not to the same degree that they impact San Diego.

KOWD – Norwood Memorial AP (Massachusetts)

ICAO station KOWD, the weather source for most New England Patriots games played since 1979, did not capture dew point consistently until 1998. Consequently, most Patriots’ weather data from 1979 to 1998 is missing dew point and humidity (derived from temperature and dew point).

We debated moving to the next closest weather station, KMQE – Milton Hill Memorial AP, in order to have a more complete weather record, but ultimately decided that a more accurate temperature (i.e., from the nearest weather station) sans humidity was favorable to less accurate (i.e., from a weather station further away) temperature readings including humidity.

Weather data provided by Mark Wald.

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