Study suggests climate change is throwing major league curveballs
A new study about home runs suggests climate change is altering baseball as we know it.
After looking at more than 100,000 Major League Baseball games, researchers from Dartmouth College concluded that higher temperatures lead to more home runs.
It all comes down to physics: When it’s warmer, the air is less dense, meaning there’s less resistance against the ball.
The study, published last month in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, found that, between 2010 and 2019, more than 500 home runs – or about 1% of them – can be specifically attributed to historical warming.
“In the West, like everywhere else, if temperatures continue to rise, we will see more home runs if nothing else changes,” said Chris Callahan, a PhD candidate in climate science at Dartmouth College and the lead researcher.
He said the study highlights the small and hard-to-measure effects of our changing climate far beyond baseball.
“We think our research is a signal of the ways that climate change is going to reshape many of the parts of our lives in really pervasive and subtle ways,” Callahan said.
What made measuring this pervasive and subtle effect on baseball possible was the MLB's decades of data – the sort of data capable of capturing such signals but which we often don't have.
“Not every climate threat, not every population at every location, has the kind of data availability that would allow us to understand the influence of climate change on people,” he said. “We may be missing significant threats to people, especially in poorer parts of the world, places with less institutional capacity, because we don't have the data to understand those climate risks at present.”
Baseball-wise, Callahan said rising temperatures also mean mounting risks to players and fans, especially for teams that play in the Southwest, like the Diamondbacks in Arizona and, potentially, the Athletics in Las Vegas.
“I think baseball is going to have to reckon with the risks that climate change poses to players and ballpark attendees and things like that – more so that they're going to have to reckon with home runs, to be honest,” Callahan said.
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