Can the weather really help baseball players hit home runs?
The short answer is yes. However, the help provided by the weather is quite low, most of the work being done by the player and the bat.
So how does the weather help our team hit a home run? It has to do with the density of the air. Baseball will travel farther when the air is less dense. Okay, we need the air to be less dense, but how is that? There are 2 different ways to effectively lower the density of the atmosphere. Before we jump into the explanation, here’s a brief science lesson.
What is density?
Density by definition is the total mass of something divided by the total volume of something. In our case, that something is the atmosphere.
Dry air is mainly composed of nitrogen and oxygen. The atomic mass of diatomic nitrogen (N2) is 28g / mol while the atomic mass of diatomic oxygen (O2) is 32g / mol.
Water vapor (H2O) is composed of 2 molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen. Hydrogen has the lightest atomic weight of all the elements at 1 g / mol. The total atomic weight of the water vapor is then 18 g / mol.
Mathematically, it makes sense that the more molecules of water vapor you add to the air, the lighter the overall mass of the air would become. Less mass per volume of air means lower density.
The other way to decrease the density would be to increase the temperature. The increase in temperature is accompanied by an increase in volume. Increasing the volume of air while keeping the same mass would result in a smaller value for the density.
Back to Baseball
After our quick density study, the best conditions for home runs in the atmosphere would be hot and humid. These are of course NOT the best conditions for fans. Warm temperatures increase volume while increasing humidity decreases mass. This creates a very low air density.
The lower air density allows the ball to travel farther with less air resistance or drag. The drier air due to its increased weight also increases the drag force exerted on the baseball. Just as the increase in drag limits the lift of an aircraft, the increase in drag of the baseball slightly limits the length of its flight toward the fence.
In a hot and humid atmosphere, the air molecules are lighter and more spread out. These conditions allow a minimum drag force to be exerted on the ball. This means that on a hot and humid day our players can crush the ball and enjoy minimal drag force as it comes out of Baum-Walker! It’s OUTTA HERE!
In summary, if you want Diamond Hogs to have a better chance of hitting a home run, you want the air to be warm and humid!
For other educational and interesting digital weather content, check out other articles from Weather 101 and Weather Blog.