SPECIAL REPORT: The Climatology of College Football

SPECIAL REPORT: The Climatology of College Football
(Source: Mallory Schnell/WTVM)
(Source: Mallory Schnell/WTVM)
(Source: Mallory Schnell/WTVM)
(Source: Mallory Schnell/WTVM)

(WTVM) - The majority of the regular college football season takes place between the months of September and November.

During this time, players must face a variety of weather conditions depending on where a game is located. Anything from tropical weather to winter weather is on the table.

Storm Team 9 Meteorologist Mallory Schnell explores the ties of college football and climatology in her special report.

The seasons we experience here on earth are due to the planet’s tilt. Just last week we kicked off the fall season in the Northern Hemisphere.  

But one could argue, especially in the south, we have a whole other season to think about… football season.

College football is a way of life down here in the south. Whether you yell “War Eagle”, “Roll Tide”, “Go Dawgs”, or something in between, Saturdays revolve around tailgates and kick-off times.The Associated Press releases its Top 25 poll every Sunday during football season. This allows fans to keep tabs on their respective teams and the competition.

But what if a college football team was ranked on something other than performance? When attending a game, the stadium, fans, and even weather can affect your experience.

Ranking football teams and their home stadiums from best to worst weather conditions can be a bit subjective. A meteorologist at NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration- let numbers do the talking. Alex Lamers used climatology to rank the warmest, coldest, rainiest, and snowiest places to watch college football. His results will be discussed in this special report.

First up: Temperature.

The hottest location to play college football is home to Arizona State University, in Tempe Arizona. During the months of September through November, the average high there is over 88 degrees.

The coldest location to play college football? That is in Laramie, Wyoming – home to the Wyoming Cowboys. During the same months of September through November, their average high is a chilly 55°.

It’s interesting to note that the SEC is not the warmest conference on-average. Conference USA takes the top spot with an average high of 76-degrees, with the Sun Belt Conference following close behind.

Now with those kinds of temperatures, snowfall is rare here in the South… That is, unless you’re talking about the Independence Bowl from the year 2000. Mississippi State beat Texas A&M as blowing snow made for low visibility in Shreveport, Louisiana.  

Arguably the most memorable college football game played in the elements was the Michigan -  Ohio State rivalry in 1950. Dubbed the “snow bowl” or “blizzard bowl”, the game was played in sub-zero wind chills, blowing snow, and 35-mph gusts. Michigan won the game 9 to 3, despite never completing a pass.

If a football game is delayed, it’s most often due to lightning in the area. The current NCAA policy requires play to be suspended for 30-minutes if lightning is within 8 miles of the stadium.

Best chance for a thunderstorm during football season? Florida teams make up the top 5, with Central Florida in Orlando taking the top spot. For the S-E-C, Arkansas, the Florida Gators, LSU, and Texas A&M are included in the Top 15 for highest thunderstorm rates.

If you’re hoping to stay dry, UNLV may be your best bet. Between the months of September and November, Las Vegas see only 5 days of rain on-average, adding up to less than an inch in that three-month period.

Outside of the fan experience, research shows that weather can have a profound effect on the outcome of a football game - especially when it comes to wind. Teams tend to pass less and run more on windy days, with less distance covered on each pass as well.

The windiest locations for college football include the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and the University of Wyoming.

Of course, the BEST place to watch college football will always be the stadium of your home team. But now you know what to expect if you follow your team out on the road.

The weather has already affected several college football games so far this season. With Harvey and Irma making major impacts to the U-S, an unusual amount of games have been cancelled, postponed, and relocated. This list can be found here: http://bit.ly/2k1IgaJ

To check out the full results from Alex Lamer’s research, visit his blog: http://bit.ly/2xKzF1r

For more on football games played during harsh weather conditions: http://bit.ly/2fpVGrS

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