Arctic Air Blast Seen Making Super Bowl the Coldest Ever

Arctic air probably will block any chance for normal New York-area temperatures for the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

Even though long-term statistics show the chance for frigid temperatures like the ones gripping the region now is low, 2014 isn’t like most years: Cold has been having a great season.

“I would say right now the bet is on the cold,” said Dave Robinson, New Jersey’s state climatologist and a geography professor at Rutgers University in Piscataway. “That is the difference of looking at the climatological odds and the nitty-gritty of what will happen on Feb. 2, 2014.”

A double dollop of polar air is predicted to plop down on the eastern U.S. during the next two weeks. The forecast for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 called for an 80 percent chance temperatures in New Jersey will be lower than the 30-year normal, according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

January may end up as the coldest for the contiguous 48 U.S. states in the 21st century so far, said Matt Rogers, president of the Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

Through Feb. 1, the day before the National Football League title game, temperatures in the eastern U.S. will average 8 degrees below normal, he said.

“The mildest days of the next two weeks are days that it might get up to freezing,” Robinson said. In the U.S. that means 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius.)

While Super Bowls have been played in northern climes during the winter, Detroit, Minneapolis and Indianapolis, the game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will be the first time it will be held in an open-air stadium where there is a chance for snow, sleet and biting cold temperatures.

Historical Data

Based on temperature data from 1931 to 2013 there is only an 8 percent chance the thermometer will fall below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 12 Celsius) on Feb. 2, according to a website dedicated to Super Bowl weather that Robinson’s office has created. The normal low for the day is 25.

The warmest temperature recorded at Newark’s Liberty International Airport for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 -- the time of the kickoff for the game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks -- was 61 degrees in 1973. The coldest was 13 degrees in 1976 and the average reading is 34, according to Robinson’s website www.biggameweather.com. Today’s high temperature in East Rutherford is forecast to be 21 Fahrenheit, the low tonight at 9.

“The NFL took a calculated risk,” said Bernie Rayno, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The commercial forecaster has its own website dedicated to Super Bowl weather called www.willitsnow.com.

The lowest Super Bowl kickoff temperature was 39 degrees in New Orleans on Jan. 17, 1972.

Snowstorm Chances

The period between Jan. 15 to Feb. 15 is when the odds are greatest there will be a major snowstorm in the MetLife Stadium area, Rayno said. Holding a Super Bowl there was to bet that on any particular day in that month-long period, nothing would happen.

Even with the chance of snow, Robinson said in most years, from all weather systems, rain falls about 66 percent of the time.

This isn’t most years, he added.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is prepared to move the date of the game either earlier or later if a blizzard is forecast, Frank Supovitz, senior vice president of events for the league said last month.

The Super Bowl is projected to bring 400,000 visitors to the New York City region, and a $550 million boost to the area’s economy, according to the league and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Five Days

The National Weather Service won’t issue exact weather forecasts for East Rutherford until five days before the game.

Given the probability that temperatures at game time will be below 32, there is really only one outcome if a storm develops, said Michael Schlacter, of Weather 2000 Inc. in New York, which is also tracking game weather on its website.

“There is a very good chance that we will remain in this below-temperature pattern through Super Bowl week and Super Bowl weekend,” Schlacter said. “If we get precipitation, it looks like it will be the frozen variety.”

Rayno said he believes there will only be two good chances for snow in the Northeast before the game, and neither of them will be on Feb. 2.

The first will be early next week and then possibly a second one later in the week, he said.

Robinson said he is certain there will be smaller storms passing through the area to dust and refresh the snow already on the ground.

Fluctuating Models

Clear answers are hard to come by this far away from the event. Schlacter said that the computer models, which run every six hours, can fluctuate wildly when trying to predict things more than a few days into the future.

The other issue is that there are a lot of models, he said.

Robinson said there is still another wrinkle that needs to be considered. Earlier this week a storm came through the Northeast that dropped 11 inches of snow in Central Park and 10 at Newark, setting daily records in both places.

That was a weak storm that got an extra boost out of a pool of cold air that allowed it to reach its maximum potential, Robinson said.

“This one kind of really outdid itself,” Robinson said.

If the cold air hangs around, there is a chance something like that could happen again even if the odds are long.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net; Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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