Spring baseball is always a bit of a crapshoot weather-wise, but this year has been especially shitty. And we can thank the freaking polar vortex.
Frigid weather and repeated bouts of snow have caused games to be postponed from Chicago to Boston. Other games have been played in the cold and even while the flakes were flying, which has made for cool pictures and one amazing snow dinger, but not exactly a pleasant in-person experience.
With snow in the forecast for Chicago on Wednesday, the Cubs postponed their game against the Cardinals, marking the 25th delayed game of the season. Matt Lanza, a Houston-based energy meteorologist and Astros fan who’s been tracking postponements, told Earther that there haven’t been this many games postponed to this point in April since at least 2007. (I would also add that the Red Sox won the World Series that year, please don’t @ me.)
So, what’s going on this year? The story starts back when pitchers reported to spring training. In February, a record or near-record spike in temperatures in the stratosphere—which sits just above the atmospheric layer where all our weather occurs—kicked off a series of weird occurrences still affecting us today. Those types of warming events have been tied to rapid warming in the Arctic, though it’s still an ongoing area of research. In either case, the warming in the stratosphere caused the polar vortex to split in two and become unstable.
When that happens, cold air can trickle out of the Arctic to places where most of us live. And lo and behold, that’s what’s happened. The disruption contributed to the never-ending string of nor’easters. And the snow in Rome. And the weird early April snow in the U.S. And because the disruption was so intense, its impact continues today, in the form of postponed baseball games due to cold, snow, and daggers of ice.
A record cold outbreak from April 4-10 in the Midwest put the brakes on the baseball season, including cancelling Cleveland’s entire home opening series against the Mariners. While Cleveland has the highest number of days with miserable baseball weather—a delightfully made-up statistic created by Western Kentucky meteorologist Gregory Goodrich—other cities in the north didn’t fare much better that year.
“That month had 22 games postponed through April 18, and the season started a few days later than this year (and Minnesota still played in a dome then, which probably accounts for at least 3-4 games that would have been postponed otherwise),” he told Earther via Twitter direct message.
Even though climate change is warming up baseball season, cold outbreaks at start the season are still going to occur. It’s possible, at least according to that ongoing research on Arctic warming shaking up the polar vortex, that they could even become more common.
Does all this mean it might be a good idea to shorten baseball season or at least steer clear of games in the Northeast and Midwest for the first few weeks? Maybe! Will that happen? Of course not.