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Is climate change having a big impact on Major League Baseball?

(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

A recent CBS report suggested that climate change is having an impact on Major League Baseball, saying temperatures since 1970 in major league cities have increased on average 2.1 degrees, with unpredictable weather sometimes undermining games.

Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington, joined the Dori Monson Show to discuss the report.

“I didn’t think there was too much meat on that bone quite frankly, to be absolutely honest with you. I know about the implications of climate change, and I’m interested in baseball. I’ve blogged about baseball and weather a few times, and, quite frankly, I don’t think there’ll be a huge effect overall because of climate change on baseball,” he said.

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“You’ve got to think about the various seasons here. Let’s face it, baseball starts relatively cool in many parts of the country. So a lot of places baseball would be more pleasant if it warmed up a little bit. … The more northern ballparks, they can get snow at the beginning of the season, and it’s certainly cool and pleasant temperatures. So global warming is good for them.”

Mass says he doesn’t believe the impact will be serious by any means, but a slight one in late summer.

“Now, of course, during the middle of the summer it will get warmer. But I don’t think that’s going to be a fatal thing. I mean, people buy more cold beer, soft drinks, and ice cream perhaps, … I’m not a baseball owner, but I can’t see it having a real big negative effect. The only negative effect I could see that might be substantial is that global warming is predicted to cause more thunderstorms during the summer,” he said.

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“So there will be potentially more rainout events. Or they may have to pause the game or whatever during the middle of the summer in the eastern United States, not the western, but the eastern United States,” Mass said.

Dori asked about the suggestion that the temperature has gone up 2.1 degrees in major league cities, with the report noting that average temperatures in Toronto have gone up 5 degrees.

“Yeah, I think that’s very unlikely. The global warming effect, or the warming effect, is approximately 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit since in the order of 1950,” he responded. “So it has warmed up generally by maybe 1 to 2 degrees. Big values, like 5 or 10 degrees sound very unlikely.”

“In terms of global warming, most of it is ahead of us. It’s really been pretty minor so far,” Mass said. “We’ve warmed up a little bit, but the change in thunderstorms haven’t been that much during the last several decades. So at this point, there’s not much evidence of it. And if there’s going to be a big effect, it will be later in the century.”

Mass added one side note related to home runs.

“There’s one more thing I should mention, and that is warmer temperatures will cause the density of air to decrease, and that means more home runs, potentially. … All I can tell you is that you tend to have balls going farther under global warming than under colder temperatures. But that sounds good to me,” he joked.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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