Wind Chill, Temperature, and the Coldest Games in NFL History

Let's briefly take a look at some of the coldest games in NFL History with respect to temperature and wind chill values.

The chart below shows the top 15 coldest NFL games based on the actual air temperature (degrees F) around game time.  As you can see, based on the actual air temperature, the top two coldest games were the 1967 Ice Bowl (Cowboys vs Packers) and the 1982 Freezer Bowl (Chargers vs Bengals). Although the 1967 Ice Bowl was colder based on the actual temperature, some have argued that the 1982 Freezer Bowl was actually the colder of the two games because the winds were stronger during the game, thereby creating lower windchill values.  Let's take a closer look at these two nasty weather playoff games with respect to temperature and wind chill. 



The chart on the lower left below is a comparison of the actual air temperature between the Ice Bowl and Freezer Bowl around the time the game was played (Noon to ~ 4 pm). The actual air temperature for the Ice Bowl (blue line) ranged from 5 to 8 degrees colder than the Freezer Bowl (red line).  The chart on the lower right is a comparison of the winds speeds (top portion of image on lower right) and wind chill (bottom portion of image on the lower right values for both games.   Note that although the wind speeds around the time of the Freezer Bowl (red line) were nearly double that of the Ice Bowl (green line), the wind chill values were actually lower (colder) during the Ice Bowl (green line in the lower half of the image on the right below) . 


The wind chill values shown above were generated based on the updated and revised wind chill index (WCI) that was implemented by the National Weather Service in 2001.  The image on the left below briefly explains the new wind chill index and how it compares with the old wind chill index.  The updated wind chill index was developed using the latest advances in science, technology and computer modeling.  In addition, clinical trails were also conducted to verify and improve its accuracy.  The bottom line is that the new wind chill index that was implemented in 2001 is far more robust than the old wind chill index that was developed around WWII and was based primarily on the rate at which water freezes. The wind chill chart shown on the lower right is based on the new and improved wind chill index. Note that in general, the wind chill values using the new wind chill index will be warmer compared to the old wind chill index. 


Going back to our comparison of the 1967 Ice Bowl and the 1982 Freezer Bowl, the image below simply compares the average conditions during both games.   When considering both the actual air temperature and the wind chill values (based on the new wind chill equation), the 1967 Ice Bowl was actually the "colder" of the two games. 



Just as a comparison to these two historic games, here is the latest forecast conditions for Green Bay, Wisconsin for the upcoming playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers on January 5, 2014Note that this forecast is subject to change!


Average forecast game conditions for Green Bay,  Wisconsin ( 3 pm to 6 pm):

Average temperature:  - 1 F

Average wind speed:  Northwest (300 degrees) @ 11 mph

Average Wind Chill:    -16 F

Current Green Bay Forecast/Latest Observation:


Finally, other factors that likely made the 1967 Ice Bowl even more uncomfortable was the fact that Lambeau Field in 1967 was a relatively shallow open bowl with a wide open north end zone.  In comparison, the 1982 Freezer Bowl was played at River Front Stadium which was a deeper bowl and was completely enclosed (more sheltered). 




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