Global Warming Silly, Err, Baseball Season

This Seth Borenstein Associated Press story that contends global warming causes more home runs is just silly. As I've written many times, Big Climate is getting desperate because their 35 years of "the sky is falling" isn't getting the traction, nor the changes in government, they want. 

The Washington Post has also run a story of its own. 

Their stories are based on an even sillier paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society yesterday. The paper evidently lacks figures that are referred to in the text, so its reasoning is hard to follow. It contains a number items that cast doubt on the its own findings. For example,

Firstly, we estimate models with and without air density as a separate term (Table S5), which shows that when both temperature and air density are included, only air density has a statistically significant effect.

While there is no "Table S5" that I can find, doesn't the fact that temperature does not have a "statistically significant effect" undermine the entire premise of the paper? Meteorologically, this is correct: the most important atmospheric effect on baseball is the air density. It could be obtained at each park by measuring the barometric pressure not corrected for sea level. The authors chose not to do so.

We also find no significant effect of wind speed (Table S4), potentially because we do not have high-quality within-park measurements of wind speed and direction.

Seems to me that wind is rather important aspect of home runs. They don't use temperatures taken at the ballpark, either. And, I can't find "Table S4."

This [increase in home runs], while statistically distinguishable, is smallan increase of some 1% relative to the total number of home runs in 2019. Other factors such as changes in the height of the stitches on the baseball appear to have been more important in driving recent home run trends (Albert et al., 2018, 2019).

The emphasis is mine. 

The Washington Post article on the paper says, 

That number only makes up about 1 percent of home runs over that time period, suggesting that player talent, strategy, equipment, and countless other factors have more influence in dingers.

The authors report they measured home runs from 1962 to 2019 (then stopped then because of COVID). Not mentioned is that during that period of time, baseball added teams in Arizona, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Houston and Seattle. Montreal was moved to Washington (a warmer climate). [A team was placed in Tampa but it is a full-time domed stadium.] My point is that all of these changes, except for the Seattle Mariners, raised the "average temperature of baseball" (my words) which has nothing to do with global warming. The paper does not even mention these changes nor does it mention a methodology for correcting for them.

As basic atmospheric science reveals and, as stated above, it is air density that would control any effect on home runs, not temperature. So, let's examine those two parameters from the AMS paper's Figure 1. 

The middle (temperature) data is crossed out because the paper itself says that it is density (right) that is important. The left box shows the actual number of home runs (thin line) and the five-year average (thick line). Note that home runs decrease even though air density (right box) is decreasing (remember the hypothesis: thinner air = more home runs) from 1962 to 1980. That shouldn't have happened. Home runs also decrease from 2000 to 2010 as air density decreases (I marked "2010" on the graph). That also shouldn't have happened. Finally, air density rises the last five years of the study (green arrow) yet home runs skyrocket. Temperatures (crossed out) drop during the period of record home runs. 

I'll say it again. My position is that global warming is a serious problem that deserves serious solutions informed by serious science. This is the opposite of serious. 

Addition: Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., weighs in on the study, here

Dr. Pielke:

commented that climate change didn’t have the same HR-boosting effects in other baseball leagues, with no similar home run trends in Japan, the AAA league or the NCAA — where in each instance home runs have declined in recent decades...

A lesson here is that we have created strong incentives in science, in the promotion of science and in journalism to reduce everything to climate... 

These incentives help us to understand what gets published, promoted and clicked. These incentives are also incredibly distorting to both journalism and, increasingly, to research. Baseball and climate might seem like a silly topic, but these dynamics can be found on far more important issues involving climate.


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