As the state climatologist for New Jersey, Rutgers geography professor David A. Robinson supplies critical weather and climate information for the 2014 Super Bowl at biggameweather.com. Like the NFL playoffs, the outlook for Sunday’s game is full of predictions and a few wild cards — outlying factors that could come into play.
The Super Bowl is scheduled in the dead of New Jersey’s winter, at the tail end of what is statistically our coldest two weeks. To help state authorities, teams and fans prepare, we looked at 80 years of daily and hourly observations from Newark Liberty International Airport, which is representative of the Meadowlands climate and weather.
Early on, we looked at the average conditions for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 (kickoff time) and found that it is 34 degrees, with a 1-in-3 chance of some precipitation. We have a 1-in-10 chance of snow and 2-in-10 chance of rain. That means a 70 percent chance of dry conditions. The winds are usually moderate, 10 to 15 mph.
The warmest it has been on that date at that time is 61 degrees. The coldest is 13 degrees. There have been as much as 2 inches of rain and 3.4 inches of snow.
That’s not the whole story, because big snowstorms can fall here in January and February. On Feb. 4, 1961, more than 15 inches fell. A 10-inch-plus snowstorm is not likely, but the state better be prepared with snow-removal equipment in and around the stadium. You have to be prepared for most anything that will come along.
What makes weather prediction in these parts so difficult is that we are geographically in a climatological and meteorological squeeze play. We can get ocean influences and a direct shot of cold air from the polar north. What’s most difficult is determining the line across the state where the rain turns to snow. Where that falls makes a heck of a difference to whether schools close and snow-removal equipment is put in place.
The Meadowlands region is in the middle of an urban heat island, which may sound familiar to people in Atlanta. It also influences the rain-snow line.
The biggest nightmare for the Super Bowl would be if freezing rain falls on the New Jersey Turnpike. You’d have accidents galore. That one-hundredth inch of ice on the road turns driving into a skating match. We have a specific forecast when it gets close to the game, but given the climatological history of this part of New Jersey, you can’t let your guard down about the temperature or other weather conditions on Feb. 2.
As told to Michelle Hiskey, for the AJC