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Climate Change Threatens Baseball

Rising Temperatures Hit Long Balls

Climate Change Threatens Baseball

By John Salak –

Forget the pending dangers climate change places on the planet, people and the rest of the animals and plants that live on Earth. Apparently, it’s been messing with America’s pastime and it has for more than a decade, according to Dartmouth College


Specifically, the warmer temperatures brought about by climate change have led to a surge in home runs since 2010. Dartmouth, by the way, isn’t talking about a few dingers here and there. The Ivy League school reports that the thinner air that’s a byproduct of this environmental shift has resulted in more than 500 extra taters during this time. Worse yet, researchers predict that the impact will only grow and could account for 10 percent or more home runs by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. 


Yikes. Sure, Hall of Fame pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux may have rightly announced that “chicks dig the long ball” back in 1999, but they couldn’t have meant climate-induced dingers.


The evidence is clear. Climate change deniers can pretend all they want that global warming is a fraud. But they can’t ignore the startling rise in home runs between 2010 and 2019. The total number rose from 4,613 to 6,776, almost a 50-percent surge. 


Oh yeah, this jump simply can’t be attributed to jacked-up ball players as Major League Baseball’s steroid era was for the most part over by 2010. So, what gives? Even the Dartmouth researchers acknowledged that other factors are in play when it comes to the surge in long balls, including new bat designs, analytics and adjustments by batters that reflect an increased emphasis on dingers. Warmer temperatures, however, definitely played a part. 


“There’s a very clear physical mechanism at play in which warmer temperatures reduce the density of air. Baseball is a game of ballistics, and a batted ball is going to fly farther on a warm day,” said senior author Justin Mankin, an assistant professor of geography.


The research team wasn’t just spittin’ sunflower seeds around in developing its conclusions. The group analyzed more than 100,000 major league games and 220,000 individual hits to correlate the number of home runs with the occurrence of unseasonably warm temperatures. They also estimated the extent to which the reduced air density that results from higher temperatures was the driving force in the number of home runs on a given day compared to other games.


“We asked whether there are more home runs on unseasonably warm days than on unseasonably cold days during the course of a season. We’re able to compare those days with the implicit assumption that the other factors affecting batter performance don’t vary day to day or are affected if a day is unseasonably warm or cold.” explained lead author Christopher Callahan, a Dartmouth doctoral student.


“We don’t think temperature is the dominant factor in the increase in home runs—batters are now primed to hit balls at optimal speeds and angles,” he added. “That said, temperature matters and we’ve identified its effect. While climate change has been a minor influence so far, this influence will substantially increase by the end of the century if we continue to emit greenhouse gases and temperatures rise.”


The only good news to come out of the Dartmouth study is that climate change’s effect on home runs may finally force countries to take this pending environmental disaster. Baseball, after all, is played extensively in North America, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. The game just wrapped up the highly successful World Baseball Classic so increased long balls now have international consequences. 


Ultimately, it’s now late innings for the globe and the game.





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