The Super Bowl LVI could be the hottest ever played. Here’s why

Anyone arriving in Southern California for the Super Bowl may be amazed at how warm it is in Southern California at this time of year.

And they should be, because this weather is unusual.

Temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees above average are expected Wednesday through Sunday, when the big game is played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, said Alex Tardy, weather forecaster with the National Weather Service in San Diego. The readings will rise to almost record levels, reaching almost 90 degrees in some places.

Temperatures could be in the 80s in the foothills and 70s in the mountains. Some wind-prone areas cool to 60s and 70s only overnight.

Heat like this hasn’t been seen in February since 2016, Tardy said, and it can pose dangers to those not used to it.

The National Weather Service has issued a heat warning for parts of the region warning of temperatures of 85 to 90 degrees. One reason for the heat warnings, Tardy said, is “the influx of visitors not expecting 92 in LA.”

Map of North America showing warm high pressure over California pushing jet stream north and east from Alaska

The jet stream has been blocked by high pressure and is heading too far north and east for rain in California.

(Paul Duginski/Los Angeles Times)

Hot and dry conditions bring with them an increased risk of fire, especially with dry fuels that have not rained in the past five weeks.

The weather pattern is very similar to what brought record-breaking heat to the West Coast last summer, Tardy said. The difference is in the order of magnitude. This is February, so the upper high-pressure ridge is not as strong as in summer, and the sun has been at a low angle for months, much dimmer than in summer when it’s almost directly overhead.

The jet stream, or storm path, that brings winter storms south from the Gulf of Alaska to California has been called tardy for much of the winter — and much of the last two years — blocked by a giant high-pressure dome in the eastern Pacific. It’s too far north and too far east for rain in Southern California.

The high altitude, unusually strong for this time of year, will build directly over California through Thursday.

Meanwhile, surface high pressure in the Great Basin will bring another wave of dry Santa Ana winds as they blow to lower pressure near the coast. These winds blow offshore in Southern California, bring exceptionally low humidity, and can make coastal areas as warm or warmer than low desert locations like Palm Springs.

Winds in Santa Ana are expected to be particularly gusty on Wednesday night and Thursday, and are expected to weaken on Friday. But the strong mass of warm air will remain anchored directly over California, peaking on Friday and Saturday.

The warm airmass will linger over California through Sunday, so the heatwave will continue, but Santa Ana’s offshore winds will be replaced by weak onshore currents.

An illustration of a football helmet with an H logo on an orange circle

High pressure has built a dominant defense and denied Southern California the chance of rain for much of the winter.

(Paul Duginski/Los Angeles Times)

“While SoFi Super Bowl tickets are approaching record prices, weather geeks are eyeing another record: the hottest Super Bowl on record,” said climatologist Bill Patzert. “Temperatures could hit the mid to high 80s by Sunday’s kick-off. Anything over 84 degrees would surpass the previous record set by Super Bowl VII, played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 14, 1973.”

In the rain game, California came on the scoreboard in late October with a decent atmospheric flow, had an unusually dry November, and then received soggy storms in December that poured rain and piled snow in the Sierra Nevada.

But since then, high pressure has denied the fall in California with a strong defense and the clock is threatening to run out. The state generally only has the rest of February and March to get any significant rainfall.

Western US map shows most of California with 25% or less of normal precipitation since January 1st

So far this year, rainfall in Southern California has been well below normal.

(Paul Duginski/Los Angeles Times)

After this weekend, the storm track is expected to change, skirting the blocking high, forecasters say, and trending straight down through British Columbia and into central and southern California. This is expected to bring much cooler temperatures and could allow for some showers.

But January and February are typically the two wettest months in Los Angeles. Absent any significant rainfall, the region would head into the fourth quarter hoping to pull off a “March miracle.” The Super Bowl LVI could be the hottest ever played. Here’s why

Tom Vazquez

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