Dave Robinson and his team at the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist at Rutgers do more than talk about the weather – they study it.
And they keep records, lots of records, which often prove quite helpful to others bound to be affected by the elements.Now, as the first northern climate, outdoor Super Bowl approaches – Sunday, Feb. 2, MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (with a very small possibility for a date change) – Robinson, the state climatologist, his research assistant Dan Zarrow and Assistant State Climatologist Mat Gerbush, have created what might be the ultimate Super Bowl weather website dashboard: BigGameWeather.com. The site is being billed as the “one-stop-shop” for critical weather and climate information relating to the Big Game.
“Since this is the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors at a cold-weather venue, keen attention has been paid by many to the potential ramifications of the elements on travel to and from the region, and on local festivities in the days leading up to the game and during the game itself,” said Robinson, a professor of geography in the School of Arts and Sciences. “The website is intended to serve organizers and managers of the event, media members, ticket holders, fans who simply want to know what game-time conditions might be, and even the teams themselves.”
Rutgers Today: What is the role of the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist?
Dave Robinson: As the focal point for New Jersey’s climate services, the office is responsible for collecting and archiving weather and climate observations; gaining a better understanding of the state’s climate through an active research program; and educating and informing citizens, stakeholders and decision makers on matters related to New Jersey’s weather and climate. We do not provide weather forecasts. The game day forecast will come from the National Weather Service (NWS).
Rutgers Today: How did BigGameWeather.com come to be?
Robinson: To demonstrate the utility of climatological information, the New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management requested a report in August from our office on potential weather conditions for three days on either side of the Super Bowl. In other words, they were looking for the “climatological odds” on various conditions that might occur during Super Bowl Week.
Tens of thousands of visitors will be descending on the New Jersey-New York metropolitan area for a week of Big Game-related and other events, some of which will be outdoors or require travel to a variety of venues. Trans-Hudson transportation via mass transit and otherwise, as well as travel on both sides of river, is a major concern in the dead of winter.Rutgers Today: What information is included on the dashboard?
Robinson: The dashboard includes current weather conditions from the Lyndhurst, N.J., Weather and Climate Network (NJWxNet) station located just two miles from MetLife Stadium. Lyndhurst is one of 56 NJWxNet stations operated by the state climatologist’s office and updates weather variables every five minutes. The dashboard displays current New Jersey weather maps and observations from other weather stations, including the cities of the NFC and AFC champions once they are determined, and the latest National Weather Service forecast for the Meadowlands. We present a wealth of climatological information, gleaned from more than 80 years of weather observations at nearby Newark Liberty International Airport. Graphs and figures accompanied by bulleted highlights feature an analysis for Feb. 2, and more specific game-time statistics, along with hour-by-hour and year-by-year reviews.
Rutgers Today: So what might be expected on Super Sunday?
Robinson: Our evaluation provides an idea of conditions that might be expected on Feb. 2 based on what has transpired in the past. For instance, the average temperature at the early-evening kickoff time is 34 degrees F, yet has ranged from as high as 61 degrees in 1973 to as low as 13 degrees in 1976. There is a 57 percent chance the temperature will dip below freezing for at least a portion of the game, but only a 25 percent chance of rain or snow falling during the game.
When precipitation has actually fallen on the evening of Feb. 2, there is about a one-in-three chance it will fall as snow. And while the greatest snowfall recorded in Newark during the past 83 Feb. 2s was only 3.4 inches in 1985, 15.2 inches blanketed the area on Feb. 4, 1961. That data proves that while large snowfalls are not all that common in early February, such an event cannot be ruled out on game day or any time during Super Bowl Week.