Play Ball? Climate Change Threatens to Strike Out America’s Favorite Pastime.

Baseball remains a highly popular sport in the United States, with Major League Baseball bringing in a record $10.7 billion in revenue for the 2019 season. As the 2021 postseason wraps up, the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros prepare to battle it out in the World Series. However, climate change threatens a yearly tradition where fans may no longer be able to buy peanuts and Cracker Jacks as they watch the country’s national sport.

Climate Change Impacts Major League Baseball Across The Country

  • The full baseball season ranges from late March to early November, with most of the season occurring during the hottest months of the year, putting both players and fans at risk for heat-related illnesses.
  • As of May 2021, Major League Baseball cities have warmed an average of 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970.
  • Not only do warming temperatures increase the likelihood of heavy rain events and extreme heat, it can affect the probability of home runs.
  • In 2018, 28 baseball games were cancelled due to inclement weather in the first month of the season, the highest number since record-keeping began in 1983.
  • 12 of the 30 MLB teams are at risk of seeing wetter weather, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the country.
  • Peanuts ranked at 10th place for the MLB’s Food Fight 2021 contest. Long considered a staple snack at baseball games, peanuts are vulnerable to heat stress brought on by warming temperatures, which threatens to reduce peanut production worldwide.  
    • Georgia, which is home to the Atlanta Braves and is the number one producer of peanuts in the United States, could see more than 90 dangerous heat days every year by 2050.

Both Teams In The World Series Have Felt The Impacts Of Climate Change

Atlanta Braves

  • Due to climate change, Atlanta has warmed by 3.1 degrees Fahrenheit between 1970 and 2020.
    • In April 2021, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Braves had to postpone a game due to inclement weather that included hail and heavy rain in Atlanta, resulting in the Diamondbacks’ first postponed game due to weather since May 2015.
    • In 2017, an opposing pitcher lasted only 3 innings vs. the Braves during a game on June 30th, as Atlanta reached 106 degrees and the temperature on the field measured at 120 degrees by the 4th inning.
    • In 2015, heavy rains forced a game delay between the Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta and the New York Mets due to flooding on the field.
  • In October 2019, Atlanta hit 91 days of temperatures at 90 degrees or above, and broke the record of 90 days set in 1980 and matched in 2011.
  • Atlanta is the 19th fastest warming city in the United States, and heat related
the city 
  • On average, Atlanta is 6 degrees warmer than its surrounding suburbs.
  • About  11,654 or 9% of all properties in Atlanta have a greater than 26% chance of being severely affected by flooding over the next 30 years.
  • Atlanta is at higher risk for urban flooding due to the area having more development, more concrete and fewer places for water to drain.

Houston Astros

  • Due to climate change, Houston has warmed by about 3.8 degrees between 1970 and 2000.
    • In May 2019, heavy storms caused rain to seep into Minute Maid Park, where fans left the entire right field upper deck to avoid getting soaked.
    • In 2017, Hurricane Harvey forced the Astros and Texas Rangers to move their home games.
    • The Astros’ Minute Maid Park flooded in May 2015 after water leaked through the stadium’s retractable roof.
  • The Houston National Weather Service station’s highest average 3 day precipitation amount was 10.8 inches between 1971-1990, which could increase to an average of 12 inches by the end of the century.
  • By the end of the century, Houston could experience 22 to 23 precipitation events of 4 inches of rainfall or more, compared to the 19 events historically.
  • Warming temperatures will likely increase the intensity of hurricanes.
    • Human-induced climate change has increased the probability of rainfall from events like Hurricane Harvey to over 18% by the end of the century. 
  • Houston could see heat waves lasting 46.6 days by the end of the century.
  • Houston sits only 43 feet above sea level, making the city vulnerable to flooding.