Study: Climate Change Is Causing More Baseball Homeruns


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Study: Climate Change Is Causing More Baseball Homeruns

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Even America’s favorite pastime is not immune to climate change. A new study by scientists at Dartmouth College has found that a warmer atmosphere could be causing more home runs in professional baseball.

A study published last week in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society looked at 100,000 Major League Baseball games and found that at least 500 home runs since 2010 can be attributed to climate change.


As the planet warms, the authors predict that climate change could be responsible for nearly 10 percent of all home runs by 2100, with every degree of warming associated with 95 additional home runs in a season. After all, the report concludes, several hundred extra home runs in a season could be linked to climate change.

The article was born out of Callahan’s interest in baseball as a Chicago Cubs fan, as well as his background in climate science.

“I grew up with baseball a lot and I still watch it very closely and care about it,” Callahan said. “I also think about climate change during my day job. And so I inevitably started thinking about the two things together.”


Baseball is not the only sport to be affected by climate change. Tennis could also be a victim of global warming, as is football, both sports mostly played outdoors in thermal venues such as the Australian Open in Melbourne or last year’s World Cup in Qatar.

But for these sports there is not enough data yet. The Dartmouth study drew on baseball’s tradition of obsessively recording every statistic.

“There is such an abundance of data in baseball that you can do some really great analysis,” Callahan said. “And other sports might not have that.”

The fundamental science behind the research is the relationship between temperature and air density, which affects the speed at which a ball can move through the air. When the air is colder, the air particles are much closer together, which can slow down a fast moving ball. As the air gets warmer, the air particles move away from each other, allowing the ball to move through the air much faster. These fundamentals go way beyond baseball, but research has clarified the relationship between climate and home runs.


In the past, professional baseball players have speculated that climate change could increase home runs, especially when professional commentator and former player Tim McCarver made the connection in 2012. At the time, sports journalists ridiculed him for this observation, but the study adds more weight to his theory.

The authors also accounted for other factors that may have contributed to the overall increase in home runs, including performance-enhancing drugs, player training, and the actual design of the baseball itself.

“I was really surprised that the relationship was so strong,” Callahan said. “Whichever way you choose whichever version of the data to use, whatever time period you look at, you get the same result.”

But an important caveat of the study is that it’s hard to link any single home run to climate change, just as climate scientists are afraid to say that a single event is linked to climate change.


“I think the science at this point doesn’t allow us to link any specific home run to climate change,” Callahan said.

Nathaniel Domini, professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College and co-author, said the study was the most demonstrative of the far-reaching effects of climate change.

Research on climate change usually focuses on the larger groups that will be affected, such as people living near coastlines or the economy. But studies like these are important, Domini says, because they help demonstrate how climate change will affect every aspect of everyday life.

“There are aspects of our daily lives, things that are dear to us, that will be affected by climate change and that are beyond the usual topics for discussion,” Dominy said.

This article originally appeared in Grist at Grist, a non-profit independent media organization dedicated to telling stories about climate solutions and a fairer future. Find out more at


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