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Going, Going, Gone – Meteorology and Baseball

24 Oct 2017, 7:06 pm

Things are about to get more interesting for Major League Baseball as Dodger Stadium hosts game one of the World Series tonight. How the baseball flies when it is hit can be influenced by meteorology. Air pressure, humidity, temperature and of course wind all can impact a baseball’s flight.

Air pressure is a major factor in influencing how far a baseball will travel, all else being equal.  At higher elevations parks like say Coors Field in Denver, the air is thinner and has a lower density which allows the ball to fly further.  The lower density of the air reduces the frictional force of the air interacting with the ball.

Water vapor or humidity in the air can also impact a baseball’s flight. The amount of water vapor in the air affects the density of the air.  Water vapor is a relatively light gas when compared to the makeup of other gases.  The more water vapor or humidity in the air the less dense the air will be. As with air pressure, less dense air will provide less friction on a ball in flight and it will travel further when hit, everything else being equal.

Air temperature can also affect the density of the air.  On hot days the air is warmed and expands which lowers the density of the air mass.  As above, less dense air will allow a ball to sail farther when hit.

Wind speed and direction may be the most obvious meteorological factor to the flight of a baseball.  This too comes down to friction.  Air flowing opposite to the path of the ball will amplify the friction the ball realizes. While air flowing with the direction of the ball reduces the friction imposed on it.  

The best conditions for knocking one out of the park; be at high elevation on a warm and humid day with the wind blowing out to center field.

Meteorologist Mike Morrison

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