The ultimate matchup: Weather ☔ vs. football 🏈

Parameters like air temperature, humidity, wind and rain can all affect a football game

Friday night lights are sacred this time of year as the football season gets underway.

But as the seasons change and leaves begin to turn colors, Mother Nature tends to throw all different types of weather at us in South Texas.

Between temperature changes, humidity differences, rain and gusty winds, the elements can affect players’ performances and accuracy during a football game.

How? Let’s break it down:

Hot vs. cold air

In a basic sense, different air temperatures have different densities. Hotter air has a lower density, versus cooler air which has a higher density.

To determine density, we can look at how tightly packed the molecules in the air are. As the temperature gets warmer, the molecules in the air are more energized and move around more, leading to a lower density.

On the flip side, as the air temperature gets cooler, the molecules don’t move around as much, leading to a higher density.

Lower air density lowers the drag generated as the ball flies through the air. This gives the ball a better likelihood of traveling farther in hot air when compared to cooler air.

Cold air, specifically, can also make it harder to physically catch and handle a football.

According to Dr. Gary Guerra, Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at St. Mary’s University, “When it’s super cold, our body wants to shunt blood from our extremities, which is our toes and our fingers to our vital organs... However, it also reduces the temperature in our hands, which also reduces the sensation and the manual dexterity, or the ability to grasp objects.”

When it’s hot, heat exhaustion and heat-related illnesses can quickly become an issue. In fact, UIL now recommends that coaches monitor the wet-bulb globe temperature to protect their players outside during practices and games. The wet-bulb globe temperature takes into account the temperature, humidity, solar radiation, cloud cover and wind.

Humid vs. dry air

Differences in humidity act in a similar way, since water vapor is lighter than both oxygen and nitrogen.

When the humidity increases, density then decreases as the amount of oxygen and nitrogen goes down per unit volume. This leads to a higher likelihood that the football will travel farther when compared to a day with low humidity.

The higher humidity, the lower the density and vice-versa.


As you would probably guess, rain makes it harder to pass and catch a football since it can make the ball slippery.

When this happens, you’ll often see football coaches change their offensive strategy from passing to running.

“If it’s raining we’re going to do something different, as far as either run the ball more... if it’s pouring down rain we’re gonna have to, but you still have your play-action passes,” said head football coach Stephen Liska of Pleasanton ISD.


Strong winds can also affect passing, kicking, and punting during a game. A healthier headwind or tailwind can impact how far the football is able to travel. A crosswind can even impact the trajectory or the path that the football takes through the air.

“Between passing and kicking and punting, stronger winds are more likely to affect kicking and punting, primarily because of the vertical and the horizontal distances that the ball has to travel. However, in a long pass with a crosswind, the quarterback is going to have to anticipate the amount of lead that they provide to that receiver, and that’s going to be dependent upon the distance between the receiver and the quarterback,” said Guerra.

About the Author

Meteorologist Mia Montgomery joined the KSAT Weather Authority Team in September 2022. As a Floresville native, Mia grew up in the San Antonio area and always knew that she wanted to return home. She previously worked as a meteorologist at KBTX in Bryan-College Station and is a fourth-generation Aggie.

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