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Climate Change Is Impacting Baseball

Major League Baseball cities have been warming over the last half-century, impacting the game, players, and fans.
Average temperatures during baseball season have warmed by 2.8 degrees since 1970.
Average temperatures during baseball season have warmed by 2.8 degrees since 1970.(WMTV)
Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 9:47 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -Opening day is officially in the books for 2021 and after a shortened 2020 season, fans are ready to head back to the ballpark. While it was one of the colder opening days in recent memory locally and for much of the country, it’s not part of the longer term trend. The baseball season overall is warming up—impacting the game, players, and fans.

Our partners at Climate Central pulled average temperature data for all 27 Major League Baseball (MLB) cities (some teams share a city). Since 1970, MLB cities have warmed an average of 2.1°F. The greatest warming occurred in Toronto for the Blue Jays (warmed by 5.2°F) while the least occurred in Oakland, California for the Athletics (cooled a tad by 0.1°F). In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Brewers have seen warming by 2.8 degrees, keeping in mind they are not as impacted during home games with American Family Field having a roof and climate controlled stadium.

From pre-season to the World Series, the full baseball season spans from late March to early November, ecompassinging a wide range of temperatures (we focused on the regular season for this analysis). However, most of the season occurs during the hottest months of the year when players and fans are at risk of heat-related illnesses. Heat stroke and exhaustion occur when the body overheats and can’t cool down. Symptoms like dizziness, weakness, and cramping take over and can be deadly. As temperatures rise in MLB cities and across the U.S., expect more record-breaking heat and longer heat waves. In addition to extreme heat, heavy rainfall events strengthened by climate change can also disrupt the season. In 2018, 28 games were delayed or canceled due to inclement weather in the first month of the baseball season, the highest number since records began in 1983. Under a warmer climate, some regions will continue to get wetter, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest where 12 out of the 30 MLB teams are based.

Baseball season has warmed by 2.1 degrees across the country since 1970.
Baseball season has warmed by 2.1 degrees across the country since 1970.(WMTV)

But that’s not all. Climate change is throwing another curveball—it can affect the number of home runs. In a warmer and more humid environment (among other factors), baseballs are able to travel farther. The simple breakdown is warmer, humid air is less dense than colder, drier air, so there’s less resistance for a flying ball. This is good news for fans of the long ball because rising temperatures in the future could mean more home runs.

MLB has taken strides to become more green and sustainable in recent years. For instance, seven MLB stadiums have LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by becoming more energy efficient and cutting down on water consumption. Also, 10 MLB ballparks have implemented solar energy, 19 clubs have installed LED field lights, and as a whole in 2018, their clubs diverted more than 20,000 tons of recyclable or compostable waste from landfills. You can check out more specific sustainability initiatives and green partnerships through 2019 here.

METHODOLOGY:

Temperature trends plot data from the Applied Climate Information System, based on a mathematical linear regression. MLB graphics use the average temperature during baseball season (April - September) in each of the 27 MLB cities (representing 30 teams).

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