3 Times Weather Nearly Delayed or Canceled the Super Bowl

Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles playing in the snow.
Hunter Martin / Getty Images

Could the next Super Bowl be delayed or postponed due to inclement weather?

Given that the Super Bowls are frequently hosted by states with tough winter weather, there's a chance there could be snow in the forecast during the big day. Still, in NFL Super Bowl history, no game has ever been delayed due to weather. Super Bowl XLVII in 2014 was the first and so far, the only game to be delayed. The Ravens-49ers game was delayed for 34 minutes in the third quarter thanks to an electrical mishap. But that doesn't mean weather hasn't tried to stop the Super Bowl. 

Super Bowls Turned Snow Bowls

Although a weather contingency plan has never had to be implemented in Super Bowl history, there have been a handful of close calls when the Super Bowl was at risk of being delayed. 

  • Super Bowl XLI. February is normally Florida's dry season, but in 2007, an active jet stream and a nearby stationary front converged, leading to monsoon rains in Miami. The game still went on, but not even ponchos were enough to keep fans in the stadium dry. Many left their seats and took shelter in the stadium concourse, or simply left the game early.   
  • Super Bowl XLV. At the start of Super Bowl week 2011, all eyes were drawn to Arlington, Texas, when the host city was hit by an ice storm. Later in the week, an additional 4 inches of snow fell. An arctic front helped the snow and ice linger all week long and kept temperatures in the 20s and 30s. But by the weekend, the wintry weather had thawed.  
  • Super Bowl XLVIII. Weather contingency plans were on hand for 2014's Super Bowl — the first to be played in an outdoor venue at a cold-weather city (East Rutherford, New Jersey). Not only did a winter storm drop a mountain of snow on the MetLife Stadium just before Super Bowl week, but the Farmer's Almanac predicted another round of heavy snow was on tap for Super Bowl weekend. Luckily, when it came down to game time, the weather cooperated with cloudy skies and an air temperature of 49 degrees F at kickoff — nearly 10 to 15 degrees above normal for the city. Oddly enough, a winter storm hit the next day, blanketing the city in eight inches of snow and stranding many Super Bowl travelers.

The Warm-Climate Rule

Surprised at the lack of weather delays despite the Super Bowl being played mid-winter?

One reason for this is because football, like our U.S. postal service, has a "neither snow, nor rain, nor heat..." culture. But, a second, lesser-known reason is the league's "warm-climate rule" — a sort of built-in weather contingency plan that must be met when choosing the Super Bowl's host city. 

The NFL's warm-climate requirement mandates the host stadium location must have an average temperature of 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) or above for that year's scheduled Super Bowl date.

At least, that's the way the NFL and Host Committee used to pick potential Super Bowl cities. In 2010, this warm-climate requirement was waived, giving cold-weather cities with open-air stadiums a fair chance at also hosting a Super Bowl. What was the reason for the change? The chance to offer a new experience for football fans attending in-person and watching at home. According to the sentiments of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall, "the game of football is made to be played in the elements."  

Football in the Bleak Mid-Winter

Why is the Super Bowl held in winter, anyway?

It's certainly not a matter of preference. It's simply the timing of the NFL schedule. Opening season is always the weekend after Labor Day (the first Monday in September) in early fall. Add in the 17-week regular season, three rounds of playoffs, and you land exactly five months later into late winter. Additional playoffs have pushed the Super Bowl date out from early to mid-January to February, but still winter nonetheless.   

Winter weather can wreak havoc on football in a number of ways:

  • Snow. Snow makes for a slippery football field, but its primary threat is its color. Snow blankets white goal lines, end lines, hash marks. If snowfall is particularly heavy, or if winds are driving, it can also mean reduced or no visibility for players on the field.
  • Sleet, freezing rain. Ice on the field poses a similar threat to players as it does to pedestrians and drivers on roadways and sidewalks: a total loss of traction.
  • Frost. If temperatures are cold enough, you don't even need snow or ice to freeze the grass (or turf) underfoot — frost is enough to do the job. To combat this, many cold-climate stadiums are outfitted with a system of underground electric coils or underground pipes filled with antifreeze (yes, the same stuff that's in your car) to keep the field soft.
  • Cold Air. Even if you don't have to worry about a frozen field, cold weather still poses another threat to the game: under-inflated footballs. A football (which is customarily inflated indoors) can deflate by roughly 0.2 PSI for every 10-degree drop in temperature it experiences after being transferred outdoors. ​

Super Bowl Saturday?

So, what would happen if a major weather event did threaten the safety of spectators on Super Bowl Sunday? A weather contingency plan would be enacted.

Contingency plans more or less move the game from its traditional Sunday spot to the Friday or Saturday of Super Bowl week, or the following Monday or Tuesday. Which day the game is postponed to is a decision that's made closely with meteorologists. For example, if a snowstorm was forecast for Super Bowl night, playing Saturday might be an option. Whereas, if a blizzard hit on a Friday (two days before the scheduled game), it could be the following Tuesday before the city had time to dig out roads and parking lots.

To date, the Super Bowl has never been changed from its scheduled date. 

If ever ill weather were to impact the Super Bowl for up to a week, a contingency plan may call for the game to be relocated to another city altogether. 

Super Bowls With the Worst Weather

Just because the Super Bowl has eluded all weather-related delays doesn't mean its game day weather has always been sunny and 60 degrees. Here's a look at some of the weather's most unsettled game days in Super Bowl history. 

Super Bowl No. Date Host City Weather Record
VI Jan 16, 1972 New Orleans, LA Coldest Super Bowl played at an outdoor venue (39 degrees F).
XVI Jan 24, 1982 Pontiac, MI First time Super Bowl was held in a cold-weather city. First Super Bowl played in the snow.
XVIII Jan 22, 1984 Tampa, FL Windiest Super Bowl (25 mph wind gusts).
XXXIV Jan 30, 2000 Atlanta, GA A rare ice storm hit during Super Bowl week. Atlanta's indoor stadium saved it from possible delays.
XLI Feb 4, 2007 Miami, FL The first and wettest Super Bowl to be played in the rain.
Super Bowl's Worst Weather Games

Interested in more facts about weather and the Super Bowl, including observed weather data for each game date? Check out NOAA's Southeast Regional Climate Center Super Bowl Climatology site


  • "Sporting Events Climatology." Southeast Regional Climate Center, 2007, Chapel Hill, NC.
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Means, Tiffany. "3 Times Weather Nearly Delayed or Canceled the Super Bowl." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/weather-nearly-delayed-or-canceled-the-super-bowl-4121201. Means, Tiffany. (2023, April 5). 3 Times Weather Nearly Delayed or Canceled the Super Bowl. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/weather-nearly-delayed-or-canceled-the-super-bowl-4121201 Means, Tiffany. "3 Times Weather Nearly Delayed or Canceled the Super Bowl." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/weather-nearly-delayed-or-canceled-the-super-bowl-4121201 (accessed June 8, 2023).