The Meadowlands, Site of Super Bowl XLVIII

The Meadowlands, Site of Super Bowl XLVIII

In its first 47 years, the Super Bowl has always been played in a warm-weather location or indoors. Miami and New Orleans have each hosted the championship game of American football ten times, and other warm locales have hosted 23 games. Another four games have been played in cities with cold and snowy winter climates—Indianapolis, Minnesota, and Detroit (twice)—but each time the stadium had a dome.

On February 2, 2014, the National Football League will hold its first outdoor Super Bowl at a northern, cold-weather stadium. The Advanced Land Imager on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite acquired this view of Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on January 30, 2014.

In the image, the south end of the stadium casts a long winter shadow over the field. Metlife is part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, which includes the Meadowlands Racetrack (horse racing) and the Izod Center (indoor arena, east of Metlife, along the New Jersey Turnpike). A crust of snow, ice, and salt make the surrounding parking lots appear gray.

The segmented brown parcels around the stadium are marshy “meadowlands.” Sitting along the west bank of the Hackensack River about five miles west of New York City, the Meadowlands have a long and environmentally difficult history. Before European settlement, the area was covered with wetlands and Atlantic white cedar forest. Colonists cut down the forests, set up dikes to drain the land, and turned it to meadows for livestock. In later years, the land was abandoned and became a dumping ground for everything from household trash to chemical waste to rubble (used as ship ballast) from the World War II London Blitz.

For the past five decades, the land has simultaneously been reclaimed for the sports and entertainment complex and for restoration of some wild lands. Sit low in a kayak in these wetlands, and you might see nothing more than waterfowl and wild marsh grasses. Stretch your head upward and you can see the New York Skyline and the New Jersey Turnpike.

The wildlife this weekend will be in the stadium and its parking lots as Americans celebrate the big game. Snow has been reported in the area seven times in the past month, including two major snowstorms, according to The Weather Channel’s website. The National Weather Service forecast for February 2 calls for cloudy skies, daytime temperatures near 48° Fahrenheit (9° Celsius), and nighttime temperatures around 28°F (-2° Celsius). There is a 20 to 30 percent chance of rain before the game and of snow after it.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data from the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.

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