The Ice Bowl: December 31, 1967


The 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers, played on December 31 at Lambeau Field, is known as the Ice Bowl, arguably one of the greatest games in NFL history.

The game was played in brutal cold and windy conditions.  The kickoff temperature in Green Bay was -13 F, with a wind chill of 36 below zero.  Temperatures were so cold, in fact, that referees had to shout signals so that the metal whistles wouldn't stick to their lips.  Even so, nearly 51,000 fans watched the coldest game in league annals.

Several players were treated for frostbite and a fan in the stands died of exposure to the cold.

Bart Starr, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame quarterback, scored the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds remaining, clinching a third straight NFL Championship for the Packers.


Some Interesting Ice Bowl Weather Facts

  • The coldest and longest cold stretch (nine days) during the 1967-1968 winter season began the day of the Ice Bowl.  Seven of nine days during that stretch did not exceed 0 F.
  • The winter in which the Ice Bowl was played (1967-1968) ranked 2nd all-time for the least snowiest (20.6 inches).  The record is 19.2 inches during the winter of 1960-1961.
  • The Ice Bowl ranked 1st all-time for the lowest average temperature for any December 31: minus 6.5 F for the day.
  • The Ice Bowl ranked 1st all-time for the lowest minimum temperature for any December 31: -19 F reached just before midnight that evening.
  • The Ice Bowl ranked 4th all-time for the lowest maximum temperature for any December 31: + 6 F reached at midnight early that  morning.


The Weather Leading Up to the Ice Bowl

The overall weather pattern during the month of December 1967 underwent a rather dramatic "second half adjustment."  The upper level flow during the first half of the month was characterized by a "split flow" regime.  The west-to-east northern stream over Canada essentially blocked the Arctic air from moving southward into the United States (figure on left, below).  However, during the second half of the month, the upper air pattern changed dramatically such that by the end of December 1967, a large polar vortex had become established over Hudson Bay with a large and deep trough centered right over the central United States (figure on right, below).  This pattern change allowed the Arctic air that was building up in Canada earlier in the month to spill south into the United States by the end of the month.

Upper air chart for December 16, 1967 Upper air chart for December 28, 1967
500 mb (~ 18000 ft) chart on December 16, 1967.  Click image for larger view. 500 mb (~ 18000 ft) chart on December 28, 1967.  Click image for larger view.


The graph below shows the trend in the daily average temperature during the month of December 1967. 

December 1967 daily average temperatures
Daily average temperatures in December 1967.  Click image for larger view.

 

The Weather the Day of the Ice Bowl

The weather the day before the Ice Bowl was relatively tranquil with a high of 20 F.  However, later that evening shortly before midnight, an Arctic front swept across the state ushering bitter cold air into the state.  The temperature fell nearly 30 degrees during the 12 hour period ending at 9 am the morning of the Ice Bowl.  By 9 am Sunday, December 31, 1967, the temperature plummeted to minus 16 F with wind chill values falling to -38 F.  During the game, actual temperatures ranged from -12 F to -14 F with wind chills (based on the new wind chill index) ranging from -33 to -37 F making it the coldest game in NFL history.

Surface weather chart on December 31, 1967 Three-hourly weather on December 31, 1967.
Surface weather chart on December 31, 1967.  Click image for larger view. Three-hourly weather on December 31, 1967.  Click image for larger view.

 


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