Climate change may contribute to baseball players scoring more home runs


Don DeBold

Flickr | Don DeBold

Zena Mohamed

A new research study conducted at Dartmouth College suggests that climate change may be a prominent contributor to the rising number of home runs in professional baseball.

The study published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society examined 100,000 Major League Baseball games and 220,000 individually-batted balls to further investigate the postulate put forth.

Head researcher Chris Callahan investigated data from the 1960s up until 2020. The scientist found that from 2010-2020, there have been 500 home runs attributable to global warming.

In an interview, Callahan was asked what got him into this area of research. He responded that his love for baseball and interest in climate change propelled him to look deeper. A lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, Callahan thought that it made sense to research how the air can influence how far a ball can possibly go.

“I was very much raised on baseball, and it’s something I still follow pretty closely and care about,” . “I also think about climate change from my day job. And so I inevitably started thinking about those two things together.”

The science behind this phenomenon is that a ball goes farther in warmer air than in colder air because the air is less dense and thus carries it a greater distance.

“Once you factor in that climate change has made every game warmer over twenty years and will continue to do so in the future, you start to accumulate large numbers of home runs,” Callahan said.  

By 2050, it is estimated that there will be over 200 home runs a season. By 2100, changes in the climate will be the outset for 10% of homers, which is a substantial increase. This discovery is groundbreaking because it demonstrates how changes within the environment can influence sports that people love.

The scientist included limitations to the study because it is not feasible to attribute every single home run to climate change itself. He mentioned that baseball has a significant amount of data that can be utilized, which made the study highly convenient.

“I was pretty surprised, just in the sense that the relationship was so robust,” Callahan said. “Any way you selected any version of the data to use, any time period you look at, you get the same result.”

Some short-term solutions to this issue include playing sports indoors and decreasing the amount of heat in a stadium through various technological contrivances.

The research does not end there: it is expected that as the planet warms up, outdoor sports such as soccer will be further impacted as well.

Studies like these are crucial as they show how everyday life can be affected by the detriments of climate change. They also demonstrate how the little things do matter and can add up over time.

If the air warming up can influence the course of an entire game and a team’s chances of winning, it is only a matter of time before other changes become visible in people’s everyday lives.