281 Lightning Impacts on College Football Games

Monday, 7 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Ronald L. Holle, Vaisala, Inc., Tucson, AZ; and K. W. Flanagan

Handout (508.3 kB)

Lightning safety policies influence all types of sports, especially football in the United States, since its season overlaps the latter portion of the annual lightning cycle across the country. The economic impacts of these policies can be large, so it is appropriate to examine the lightning context in which games are affected. In this study, both cloud-to-ground and in-cloud lightning data from the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) are composited around the locations and times of the games impacted by lightning. This summary concentrates on about 150 college and university football games during the autumn in the United States from 2010 through 2017.

Delays occurred most often in early to mid-September for periods of less than an hour. The time of day of the delays was clustered around when most games start around mid-afternoon or early evening. States with the most delays were Texas and Florida, although other regions of frequent lightning impacts were in the Midwest and east-central states. The effects range from delays, to some complete cancellations of games, to a postponement to another day. About half of the delays are imposed during the game due to the presence of lightning deemed to be too close to the stadium. Several games never started, and additional contests were suspended and not restarted. Another one-fourth of the games started late, and some had halftime delays.

Several games were affected by thunderstorms that moved steadily across the region of the stadium. However, the most common delays were due to weak and medium storms in terms of lightning occurrence. Some cases had only a small amount of lightning, and lightning delays were accompanied by severe weather or other harsh conditions in a few cases. It is recommended that documentation of the decision processes at the game sites be collected and archived so that further insight can be gained into the results of this study.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner