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Scientist reveals the worrying reason baseball players are hitting more home runs than ever: 'Balls are carrying much better'

"Climate change is not just heat waves or hurricanes."

Baseball home runs

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The overheating of our planet is leading to some pretty extreme weather events, like heat waves and powerful hurricanes. But one lesser-known effect of our warming climate is ... more home runs in baseball?

According to a new study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 1% of recent home runs cleared the fence thanks to thinner air, a direct result of rising temperatures.

The study's lead author, climate science Ph.D. candidate Christopher Callahan, was inspired to dive into the topic by baseball commentator Tim McCarver, who offhandedly predicted the phenomenon more than a decade ago in 2012.

"I think ultimately it will be proven that the air is thinner now; there have been climatic changes over the last 50 years in the world. And I think that's one of the reasons that balls are carrying much better now than I remember," McCarver said during a broadcast. "The ball that Ramirez hit out, the ball that Freese hit out, I didn't think either one was going to be a home run, and yet they made it." 

Although he was mocked for it then, data has now backed up his prediction.

Callahan analyzed the home runs hit during 100,000 Major League Baseball games over nearly 60 years and found that, due to reduced air density, "we can say that the same ball leaving the same bat ends up being a home run more often in warm conditions," he told KUOW, an NPR affiliate in Seattle. 

The study also found that the warming planet could cause home runs to increase by almost 10% by 2100 (compared to numbers from 2000-2019), according to KUOW. 

Sadly, McCarver passed away in February 2023, mere months before the study was published and his prediction was vindicated.

Although everybody loves home runs (not counting pitchers), the study's broader implications are that the effects of an increasingly overheating planet are wide-ranging and often unpredictable and unforeseen (except by Tim McCarver).

"Climate change is not just heat waves or hurricanes," Callahan explained to KUOW. "It's these subtle changes in our leisure activities that are going to start affecting people more and more in ways that we may not realize yet."

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