Are you ready for some football? How about climatological normals?
Some of you are gearing up for the NFL kickoff this week, and some have enjoyed college action last weekend. I for one am very excited for the season to return, but also get pumped up when I can combine two of my favorite things, weather and football.
I grew up in New England, so naturally I'm a fan of the Patriots. I've been to all sorts of games in Foxborough, Massachusetts, including the infamous 'Tuck Rule' game in 2002. I have been to a game during every month of the regular season (September through January), and if my mind serves me well, the best weather during game time is sometime in September. Climatologically speaking, it's not too hot, not too cold, and if the remaining conditions are just right, it sets up for a spectacular day of football.
Well this got me wondering which stadiums have the nicest weather, and more importantly, WHEN do they have them? Recently, fellow climatologist Brian Brettschneider wrote a piece that tried to depict which cities in the US had the most nice days in a given year. We can extrapolate this information to weather stations at nearby NFL stadiums, and figure out which stadiums are nicer than others (weather speaking of course).
Using the climate normals dataset from the National Centers for Environmental Information, I extracted hourly information from the weather station closest to the stadium during the latter half of the day (noon to midnight, local time). Climatological normals provide an estimate of conditions for a particular hour based upon previous observations taken over a period of time (usually 10 or 30 years is the standard). Using this data, the following criteria are used to determine a nice day:
- Maximum hourly temperature is between 65F and 80F
- Maximum hourly dew point is less than 65F
- Average chance of overcast skies is less than 35%
- Average wind speed is less than 10 mph
- Little or no precipitation occurs.
Nice days are then aggregated during the months of September, October, November, and December, and any month that has 15 or more nice days is deemed worthy. January was not included because all 32 teams don't get the chance to play the entire month, as it is typically the playoffs during this time. For those of you thinking about domes, remember that attending an NFL game is an all day experience, which includes driving to and from the stadium, and more importantly, tailgating outside the stadium. So you're still on the hook here.
The graphic below shows the results by month. As expected, there is a southward trend in the results as we roll through each month. In September, 20 of 32 NFL stadiums typically have nice weather making this the most optimal month. All of the stadiums in the northeast show great conditions, as fall like weather begins to show its face. Summertime, however, persists in the southeastern US, and result in not-so-nice weather days. Daytime high temperatures are still above 80, and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico continues to keep dew points and the chance of afternoon showers high.
In October, most of the northern US stadiums drop off, with the exception of Cincinnati, Washington, and Philadelphia. Southeastern stadiums pop up, as temperature and dew point levels begin to subside, with the exception of the two southern Florida stadiums (Tampa Bay and Miami). By November, it has become too cold, too cloudy, and in some places, too rainy for most of the United States, with the exception of stadiums in the most southern states. This is also the only month the Arizona Cardinals make it on the board. If you live in Florida, then December is the best month, as it's the only state that has nice weather for a football game. Only four NFL stadiums (Chargers, Rams, 49ers, Raiders) have nice weather for three of the four months. Interestingly enough, three of these teams have recently moved to different cities. Perhaps they used climate data to make this decision!
One final note. Just because the weather isn't "nice" in a particular area for a particular month, does not mean one wouldn't enjoy the football experience. Some of the best games happen during the weather days that aren't considered nice (Ice Bowl, Fog Bowl, did I mention that Tuck Rule game was in the snow?). Later on in the year, we will look at some famous football games in the past affected by weather, and come the end of the season, we will look into the stadiums that have the most interesting weather.