What today’s 50 mph winds mean for the Pirates game

A wind like this only happens two or three times a year.

Cold temperatures and snow kept some fans away from the 2017 home opener.

Cold temperatures and snow kept some fans away from the 2017 home opener.

Cameron Hart / For The Incline
MJ Slaby

If you’re heading to PNC Park today, be ready for the wind — gusts could reach up to 50 mph, per a National Weather Service wind advisory that’s in effect til 8 p.m. — roughly two hours after first pitch.

While the wind isn’t the best for the fan experience, what does it mean for the actual game? Will more baseballs sail off in the wind for more Pirates home runs?

Wind like today’s —  high speeds across the region for a long period of time — usually happens about two or three times a year, generally in the early spring or late fall, said Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh.

Today, winds are expected to be 20-to-25 mph with gusts up to 50 mph, and the high temperature will be near 42, with a low tonight around 26.

Hendricks said the annual mean wind speed and direction is 7 mph from the west/southwest. (Today’s wind is from the west.)

But it’s not easy to predict how wind will impact the game, in part because there are so many factors to consider from air density and humidity to the orientation of the ballpark and how the Downtown buildings do or don’t block the wind, said Brad Peroney of the Carnegie Science Center’s science and education department.

But, he said, if the wind behaves like he thinks it will, the gusts will likely wrap around the stadium and create swirling wind currents in left and right field. That could effect where fair or foul balls come down as well as players’ judgement when catching them, he said.

The wind direction, however, doesn’t have a strong impact on home runs, he added, after looking at data from Hit Tracker and doing his own calculations. “This is most likely because of the way the stadium is constructed.”

In general, though, he said warm weather with still winds is the best for home runs because the air is less dense so there is less drag.

So while the wind won’t be cause for celebration or be there to take the blame, there is a positive side, Peroney said.

“One thing that we have to remember: These are professionals and they are training for this,” he said. So if the players are doing their jobs right, they should be able to adjust for the wind.

“Hopefully, that spurs a little home field advantage.”