MLB Opening Day 2024: Climate change could have big impact on baseball, depending on where you are

ByMark Rivera and Blanca Rios WLS logo
Thursday, March 28, 2024
Climate change could have big impact on baseball, depending on where you are
Argonne Lab scientists say climate change could impact baseball games, from Opening Day weather to more home runs, depending on where exactly you are.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- America's favorite pastime is back at bat, but our warming climate could have an impact on the game - depending on where you are.

Understanding how the game could be impacted - from more home runs to much different Opening Day weather - will take neighborhood-level data.

As the Chicago White Sox celebrate Opening Day, they could see more big flies out at Guaranteed Rate Field, as could the Cubs. It's all due to warming climate and warming air, according to Argonne Atmospheric Data Scientist Max Grover.

"The baseball does travel farther," he explained. "Just because there's less air for it to run into, it can go much farther."

READ MORE: Chicago White Sox fans make return to Guaranteed Rate Field for Opening Day

Bu that depends on where you are - the North Side or the South Side - and what climate mitigations are already in place.

"The future of atmospheric science and climate science is really giving decision makers the data they need at the local level so they can build resilience, community resilience," said Scott Collis, atmospheric scientist at Argonne National Laboratory.

Collis is with the lab's Community Research on Climate and Urban Science, or CROCUS. His team installed high tech climate sensors at Chicago State University on the South Side and Northeastern Illinois University on the North Side. More will be installed around the city later this year. The sensors are used to model vital neighborhood-specific climate data.

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"So when we look at these communities, the choices we make about green infrastructure, planting of trees, prairies, white roofs, renewable energy can make a difference in climate outcomes," he said.

But the big question on Opening Day is, when it's time to play ball, will the weather?

"We monitor weather all the time," said David Cromwell, Cubs' senior vice president of operations. "Days leading up to the game. Hours leading up to the game. Minutes."

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Cromwell said they work with multiple meteorology services to keep fans safe and watch for severe weather and rainfall, because Mother Nature can be as divided as the north-south rivalry.

"Back to the year that we were snowed out, we had lake effect snow all throughout that day, whereas the White Sox had their home open later that day and they were able to play it with a slight delay, but they were able to play it with no snow," he said. "We've learned to expect anything and prepare for anything."

Mother Nature does not always play along. Rain canceled Opening Day for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies this year.

In Chicago, climate change means more extreme heat and the potential for stronger and more concentrated storms, which is why the neighborhood-level research CROCUS is doing is so important. What neighborhood you live in impacts what kind of weather you experience.