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    Global Warming Could Bring Grand-Slam Weather

    By By Samantha Kramer, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
    June 24, 2012, 5:28:55 AM EDT

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    It's a fact: summer brews the best weather recipe for home-run conditions.

    Balls have the potential to travel farther in summer months because air expands as it warms, making a warm summer day prime conditions for home-run hopefuls, said Expert Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

    And on Wednesday, with a heat wave in New York giving way to temperatures in the mid-90s, the Yankees and the Atlanta braves combined for a total of nine home runs in one game.

    It was enough for New York's WABC-TV meteorologist Amy Freeze to post in her Facebook status mid-game:


    So now, this law of nature has people asking: Has global warming produced more home runs?

    Baseball announcer Tim McCarver seems to think so. A few weeks ago, during the middle of a Cardinal-Brewers game, he said warmer temperatures were to blame for the increase in home runs that baseball has seen since its birth.

    "I think ultimately it will be proven that the air is thinner now," McCarver said. "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."

    Robert Adair, a retired physics professor from Yale University, calculated that a 2-degree rise in temperature will add a foot to a 400-foot home-run ball in his book "The Physics of Baseball."

    This was put to the test in 2006, when the U.S. saw its warmest April ever and an abnormally high amount of home runs -- the highest totals since 2000, which a New York Times article deemed as the "peak" of performance-enhancing substance use from lack of random drug testing.

    Many expected to see fewer home runs when stricter punishments on drug use were enforced in 2006; instead, the opposite occurred.


    However, skeptics put in their two cents, too. Climatologist and Penn State Earth System Science Center Director Michael Mann, well known for his role in Climategate and his "hockey stick" graph illustrating global warming and increasing temperatures, said that global warming could bring an increase in carbon emissions and water vapor. Carbon once trapped in solid earth would release into the atmosphere, which could then actually make the atmosphere heavier and lower the number of home runs.

    "It's actually an interesting problem as to whether or not the surface air density will increase in response to anthropogenic influence," Mann wrote to AccuWeather.

    The problem, Mann explained, is finding out which effect is larger: the atmosphere's mass after an increase of CO2, or the increase in temperature, a calculation that still hasn't been solved.

    Others also argued that the average baseball player's size and strength, equipment updates, ballpark depths and other factors have all played equal roles, as well -- making global warming too small of a factor.

    Anderson said all conditions aside, if the only thing to come out of global warming was warmer weather, then McCarver's statement would indeed be correct.

    "Assuming everything else is equal; yes, as the planet warms, we would expect to see more home runs," Anderson said. "But other factors always play a bigger role. The general weather conditions, the wind, the stadium's location… all these other things will be more important."

    Whether yearly home run averages will increase because of global warming alone remains uncertain, Anderson said, because we still don't know all the factors that will come into play.

    What is certain, though, is that a warmer day means the ball will fly better. The fact that baseball season is in the summer isn't just for the fans.

    It's not just the batters that have the advantage, either. The ball will also travel through the air more easily for pitchers, and the warm summer air gives all players the capability to raise their core temperature and loosen their muscles better, said William Buckley, Penn State professor of exercise and sport science and health education.

    "If the [outside] temperature is already elevated, it's going to take less time to elevate the core temperature," Buckley said. "It's easier for players to get up to their highest performance potential on a warmer day."

    So next time you book tickets to a summer ballgame, remember the warm weather isn't just a plus to enjoy your hot dog: Expect a great game to go along with it.

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