The NFL is still investigating how the Patriots used under-inflated footballs in their game against the Colts, and how the footballs ended up over 2 pounds per square inch flatter than they started.
We at Skywarn 6 wanted to see if the weather played a major role in the so-called "Deflate-gate" scandal.
In the NFL, footballs have to be inflated at a minimum to 12.5 psi. In our experiment, we inflated two footballs to 12.5 psi at room temperature. Over the next three hours, we wanted to see how much a football put outside in the shade in 50 degree temperatures and a ball put in the freezer would deflate. The temperature at kickoff for the Patriots-Colts game was around 50°
Compared to other games in Foxboro, temperatures weren't that cold and temperatures didn't fall that much throughout the game. From 7pm-11pm, temperatures only dropped 5 degrees.*
Three hours later, the football that was left outside read 12 psi. The ball lost about a half a pound per square inch of pressure. The ball in very cold temperatures (the freezer) read 9.5psi.
Our results proved that temperatures would have to be colder than 46° (average) to create a natural pressure drop of 2 psi.
There are a few limitations to the study. One is the footballs we used are not official NFL footballs. But, we feel like the pressure drop would be approximately equivalent to that of a NFL ball. Another limitation is the ball that was outside was not in use. Since the pressure of a ball drops when players throw and catch it, a natural pressure drop of more than 0.5psi could be observed during a game. However, our experiment points to the fact that other forces other than the weather had to be at play.