2020 Super Bowl: Warming Trends and Flood Risk

Jan 29, 2020

All cities with NFL teams have warmed over the last 50 years due to climate change. And the stadium where the Super Bowl is being played could experience occasional flooding from sea level rise by 2070. Bonus: Groundhog Day trends!

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KEY CONCEPTS

  • With Florida’s coastal areas already facing increased flood risk from high tide flooding and extreme rainfall events, Climate Central looked into how sea level rise may affect Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, this year’s Super Bowl host.

  • Our analysis found most of the stadium property faces exposure to annual flood risk by 2070, if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to grow unchecked⁠.

  • Climate change’s impact is being felt throughout the world of sports as governing bodies, coaches, and event organizers look to protect athletes and spectators during extreme heat and poor air quality conditions.

  • Analysis by Climate Central found that all 30 NFL cities have warmed during the regular season (September-December) over the past half-century, with an average of 2.3°F warming. 

  • The Raiders’ new home in Las Vegas puts them at the top of the warming list, with an increase of 5°F during the season since 1970. Following are the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals, whose home cities have warmed more than 4°F since 1970. Of the Super Bowl opponents, San Francisco's warming trend is more than double Kansas City’s (3.0°F vs. 1.3°F). Miami, where the Super Bowl is being played, falls in the middle at an increase of 2.5°F.

DOWNLOAD HEAT DATA   |   DOWNLOAD FLOOD RISK REPORT

Image: Climate Central/Nickolay Lamm

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • The image above illustrates what Hard Rock Stadium could look like under 1.5 feet of water during a flood event at 6 feet above the local high tide line. The stadium property is relatively flat, with elevations only about 4 to 6 feet above sea level. Water could reach this level through a combination of sea level rise, tide, and storm surge. If emissions continue unabated and sea level rises at a mid-range pace, analysis shows the Miami Gardens area with a 3% risk of experiencing at least one 6 foot or higher flood between today and 2050; that risk jumps to a 16% chance by 2100. Others have projected that sea level rise will expose the area to flood risk sooner.

  • Using Climate Central’s proprietary Portfolio Analysis Tool (PAT) to estimate future coastal flood threat to the stadium, we found that almost all areas of the stadium property may experience occasional flood risk by 2070. Climate Central examined 105 locations on the local access roads, the new $135 million training complex currently under construction, the tennis center, and 100+ acres of parking lots. The northern and southern perimeters of the property, including major entrance and exit routes to the stadium, are estimated to experience occasional flood risk by 2070 and frequent flood risk by 2090. 

  • At 34 years old, the Hard Rock stadium is a relatively older stadium, with the average age of its peers about 23 years old. However, $500 million in renovations since 2015 have made it a more modern facility. The new open-air canopy, which now provides shade to a majority of the stadium’s seating, potentially lowers the temperature by 30 degrees. Before the canopy was installed, the heat issue was so problematic that the team owners petitioned the NFL to have all early season home games start at 4 pm or later.

In 2018, the NFL joined the Green Sports Alliance, in an effort to support sustainability efforts across the league as a whole. Since its inception in 2011, the Green Sports Alliance now counts 600 sports teams and venues from 15 different sports leagues and 14 countries among its membership. NFL sustainability measures include the Kansas City Chiefs’ “Extra Yard for the Environment” waste reduction program and the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium 27,000-square-foot green roof, complete with an urban farm and stormwater management system.

POTENTIAL LOCAL STORY ANGLES

Are sports stadiums or arenas near you at risk from flooding due to climate change? A number of pro sports venues in coastal areas could be exposed to flooding from sea level rise, including Citi Field in New York, Oracle Park in San Francisco, Petco Park in San Diego, and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Climate Central’s interactive Risk Zone Map tool—searchable by city or postal code—shows areas vulnerable to permanent submergence from sea level rise, or to flooding from sea level rise, storm surge, tides, and tsunamis, in different combinations. 

How are sports teams near you reacting to climate change? Check out the Green Sports Alliance to see if your local pro or college teams are among its members. You can contact local Little League softball and baseball teams or other local amateur organized sports leagues to find out what precautions they are taking for athletes and spectators during times of extreme heat or poor air quality, and if they have any environmental sustainability programs.

How does your state compare when it comes to sport safety policies? The Korey Stringer Institute has developed a ranking of state policies based on best practices for preventing the leading causes of death in secondary school athletics. 

LOCAL INTERVIEW IDEAS

The SciLine service, 500 Women Scientists or the press offices of local universities may be able to connect you with local scientists or climatologists who have expertise on the impacts of climate change on weather trends in your area.

Check in with your state’s high school sports association to find out what state-level policies are in place to ensure the safety of students who are playing sports during extreme heat or dangerous air quality conditions.

Contact the Korey Stringer Institute to speak with “ambassadors” from around the country who have personal stories regarding heat exertional illness. 

NATIONAL INTERVIEW SUGGESTIONS

Douglas J. Casa, PhD, ATC, FNAK, FACSM, FNATA
Chief Executive Officer, Korey Stringer Institute
Professor, Department of Kinesiology
Director, Athletic Training Education
University of Connecticut
860-486-3624 
douglas.casa@uconn.edu 

Jennifer Vanos, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Sustainability, Arizona State University
Research interests: Climate change, public health
480-965-6380
Jenni.Vanos@asu.edu

Scott Kulp*
Climate Central
Senior Computational Scientist and Senior Developer, Program on Sea Level Rise

Leila Hadj-Chikh*
Climate Central
Developer, Program on Sea Level Rise

*To set up interviews with Scott Kulp or Leila Hadj-Chikh contact Peter Girard at pgirard@climatecentral.org or 609-986-1999 (o) or 914-960-0274 (m). 

HOW WE GOT THE NUMBERS

Temperature trends plot data from the Applied Climate Information System, based on a mathematical linear regression. NFL graphics use the average temperature during football season (September - December) in each of the 30 NFL cities. Groundhog Day graphics plot the average temperature between February 2 and March 16. Projected sea level rise for the Hard Rock Stadium is derived from a mid-range model based on Kopp 2014. Inputs to the model include an assumption that carbon emissions continue unchecked in the so-called business-as-usual scenario, and employ Lidar elevation measures. For more detailed on the methodology, please see the Portfolio Analysis Tool (PAT) report

Groundhog Day


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  • Super Bowl Sunday is also Groundhog Day, and like it or not, Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow and predicted earlier springs more often—14 times in the past 50 years, after only 5 times in the 73 years prior. 

  • While Phil’s year-to-year predictions are faring worse than a coin flip, his shift toward earlier springs may be onto something; the six weeks after Groundhog Day are warming up in 93% of the 244 cities analyzed.

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