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One Strike, You’re Out: Lightning during Professional Baseball Games

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  • 1 aVaisala, Inc., Louisville, Colorado
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Abstract

Millions of people attend Major League Baseball games every year, during a season that is played primarily outdoors at the peak of the U.S. lightning season. In recent years, social media photographs and baseball game television broadcasts have revealed lightning within proximity of several baseball games without the game being delayed. Lightning data from the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network within 12.8 km of 9717 Major League Baseball games between 2016 and 2019 were examined to find the extent to which lightning is a threat to games, players, staff, and fans: 717 games were found to have lightning within 12.8 km, with more than 175 000 in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning discharges detected during those games. The distribution of games with lightning was not uniform and is related to the annual average lightning density of each ballpark. Despite the significant risk of a lightning-related incident at Major League Baseball games, existing work from other organizations like the National Collegiate Athletics Association and the National Athletics Trainers Association can be leveraged to improve lightning safety at professional baseball games.

Significance Statement

Nearly one of every 14 Major League Baseball games has lightning within what lightning safety experts would consider an unsafe distance. The potential for a lightning casualty incident is high because most games are played outdoors and millions of people are at baseball games every year. Although frameworks that can improve lightning safety at the thousands of professional baseball games that are played every year exist, it is unclear how frequently they are implemented.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Chris Vagasky, chris.vagasky@vaisala.com

Abstract

Millions of people attend Major League Baseball games every year, during a season that is played primarily outdoors at the peak of the U.S. lightning season. In recent years, social media photographs and baseball game television broadcasts have revealed lightning within proximity of several baseball games without the game being delayed. Lightning data from the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network within 12.8 km of 9717 Major League Baseball games between 2016 and 2019 were examined to find the extent to which lightning is a threat to games, players, staff, and fans: 717 games were found to have lightning within 12.8 km, with more than 175 000 in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning discharges detected during those games. The distribution of games with lightning was not uniform and is related to the annual average lightning density of each ballpark. Despite the significant risk of a lightning-related incident at Major League Baseball games, existing work from other organizations like the National Collegiate Athletics Association and the National Athletics Trainers Association can be leveraged to improve lightning safety at professional baseball games.

Significance Statement

Nearly one of every 14 Major League Baseball games has lightning within what lightning safety experts would consider an unsafe distance. The potential for a lightning casualty incident is high because most games are played outdoors and millions of people are at baseball games every year. Although frameworks that can improve lightning safety at the thousands of professional baseball games that are played every year exist, it is unclear how frequently they are implemented.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Chris Vagasky, chris.vagasky@vaisala.com
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