Olympics 2021: Comparing Every Sports Ball
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Olympics 2021: Comparing Every Sports Ball

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Olympics 2021 Comparing Every Sports Ball Main

The Briefing

  • Table tennis has the smallest sports ball used in the Tokyo Olympics at just 4cm in diameter and 2.7g in weight.
  • The biggest by size is the basketball at 24.35cm in diameter, but the shot is more than 10 times heavier at 7.26kg.

Olympics 2021: Comparing Every Sports Ball

It might be strange having the Olympics in 2021 (an odd year), but 2020 was anything but normal.

After facing a 12-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are set to kick off from July 23 to August 8.

In addition to hosting traditional sports like running and aquatics, some sports are being introduced for the first time (karate, skateboarding) or returning after an absence (baseball).

One thing that many Olympic sports share in common? There are 17 different sports that use balls or spheres of some sort, ranging in size and weight. Here are the different balls used in the Tokyo Olympics.

Olympic Sports Balls by Size and Weight

The 2021 Olympics, which are still officially called the 2020 Olympics to keep the four-year cycle and branding consistent, are hosting 339 events across 33 different sports.

17 of those sports use balls or spheres. The official sizes and weights vary from a small diameter of 4cm for table tennis to the largest ball, a basketball with a diameter of 24.35cm.

SportDiameterWeight
Table Tennis4.00cm2.7g
Golf4.27cm45.93g
Tennis6.70cm57.7g
Field Hockey7.48cm163g
Baseball7.50cm149g
Softball9.55cm177g
Shot Put12.00cm7,260g
Handball (Women’s)17.51cm350g
Handball (Men’s)18.78cm450g
Rhythmic Gymnastics19.00cm400g
Volleyball21.01cm270g
Water Polo (Women’s)21.01cm425g
Beach Volleyball21.33cm270g
Soccer21.96cm432.5g
Water Polo (Men’s)22.28cm425g
Basketball (Women’s)23.24cm538g
Basketball (Men’s)24.35cm608g

Even within the same categories of sports, balls have different size and weight rules based on event or gender. Water polo, handball, and basketball all have slight variations of a few centimeters in diameter and up to 100g in weight for different gender events.

But sorting the balls by weight shows that the shot is far and away the heaviest. At 7.26kg, the shot is more than 10 times heavier than a basketball. That’s because while most sporting balls are made of light material filled with air, shots are typically constructed entirely of metal.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Wired, Official Sport Rulebooks.

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Chart: 30 Years of Wildfires in America

Here’s a look at the number of wildfires in America that have occurred each year since 1990, and the acres of forest land scorched during that period.

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Wildfires in America

The Briefing

  • An average of 70,000 wildfires blaze through the U.S. each year
  • These fires destroy approximately 5.8 million acres of land on a yearly basis
  • Over 43,000 fires have started across the U.S., burning 5 million acres of land as of Sept 3, 2021

30 Years of Wildfires in America

This summer, record-breaking droughts and relentless heat waves have fueled disastrous wildfires across the United States. It’s gotten so bad, the state of California has decided to shut down all national forests for two weeks to stop the spread.

But how disastrous has this year been compared to previous years? This graphic gives a historical look at the number of wildfires in America that have occurred each year since 1990, and the acres of forest land scorched during that period.

Total Wildland Fires and Acres from 1990 to 2020

In the U.S., an average of 70,000 wildfires burn through 5.8 million acres of land each year. But some years have been worse than others.

Year# of Fires# of Acres Burned
199066,4814,621,621
199175,7542,953,578
199287,3942,069,929
199358,8101,797,574
199479,1074,073,579
199582,2341,840,546
199696,3636,065,998
199766,1962,856,959
199881,0431,329,704
199992,4875,626,093
200092,2507,393,493
200184,0793,570,911
200273,4577,184,712
200363,6293,960,842
200465,461*8,097,880
200566,7538,689,389
200696,3859,873,745
200785,7059,328,045
200878,9795,292,468
200978,7925,921,786
201071,9713,422,724
201174,1268,711,367
201267,7749,326,238
201347,5794,319,546
201463,3123,595,613
201568,15110,125,149
201667,7435,509,995
201771,49910,026,086
201858,0838,767,492
201950,4774,664,364
202058,95010,122,336
2021*43,2505,024,744

*note: 2021 figures as of September 3, 2021

One particularly bad year was 2006, which had over 96,000 fires and destroyed 9.9 million acres of land across the country. It was the year of the Esperanza Fire in California, which burned 40,000 acres and cost $9 million in damages.

2015 was also a devastating year, with over 10.1 million acres destroyed across the country–the worst year on record, in terms of acres burned.

Climate Change’s Role in Wildfires

Wildfires are only expected to worsen in the near future since warmer temperatures and drier climates allow the fires to grow quickly and intensely.

We’re already starting to see climate change impact the wildfire season. For instance, autumn is usually peak wildfire season for California, but this year, one of the largest fires on record started in mid-July, and is still burning as of the date of publication.

Editor’s note, September 20, 2021: In the post above, we said that California closed downed down all national parks for two weeks, starting August 31st. In fact, they closed down all national forests.

Where does this data come from?

Source: National Interagency Fire Center
Details: 2004 fires and acres do not include state lands for North Carolina.

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Visualizing the Typical Atlantic Hurricane Season

While the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to late November, about 85% of activity happens between August, September, and October.

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The Briefing

  • Storms are categorized by their wind speed. Any storm with winds stronger than 111 miles per hour (mph) is considered a major hurricane
  • This year’s Hurricane Ida is one of the strongest hurricanes on record to hit the U.S. mainland, with winds reaching up to 150 mph

Explained: The Typical Atlantic Hurricane Season

On August 29, 2021, Hurricane Ida hurled into the state of Louisiana at rapid speed. With winds of 150 mph, preliminary reports believe it’s the fifth strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. mainland.

As research shows, Hurricane Ida’s impact hit right at the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. Here’s a brief explainer on the basics of hurricanes, how storms are classified, and what a typical storm season looks like in the Atlantic Basin.

Let’s dive in.

Classifying a Storm

Hurricanes are intense tropical storms that are classified by their wind speed. What’s the difference between a hurricane, a typhoon, and a cyclone? They’re essentially the same thing, but are named differently based on their location:

  • Hurricane is used for storms that formed in the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and eastern North Pacific (impacting countries like the U.S.)
  • Typhoon is used for storms in the Northwest Pacific (impacting countries like Japan)
  • Tropical Cyclone is used for storms in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean (impacting countries like Fiji and India)

Since we’re focusing on the Atlantic, we’ll be using the term hurricane and/or storm throughout the rest of this article.

A storm needs to reach a certain wind speed before it gets classified as a hurricane. Storms with wind speeds of:

  • <73 mph are considered Tropical Storms
  • 74-110 mph winds are considered Hurricanes
  • 111 mph+ winds are considered Major Hurricanes

Breaking Down the Atlantic Hurricane Season

Generally, Hurricanes form in the warm ocean waters in the central Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, following westward trade winds and curving up towards the North American mainland. Hurricanes are formed when these specific elements come into play:

  • A pre-existing weather disturbance such as a tropical wave
  • Water at least 80ºF (27ºC) with a depth of at least 50 meters
  • Thunderstorm activity
  • Low wind shear (too much wind can remove the heat and moisture hurricanes use for fuel)

The Atlantic hurricane season technically lasts six months, beginning on June 1st and ending in late November. However, 85% of activity happens between August, September, and October.

Each subregion in the Atlantic has its own unique climatology, which means peak seasons can vary from place to place—for example, south Florida sees the most hurricanes in October, while the entire Atlantic Basin’s peak season is early-to-mid September.

Climate Change and Hurricanes

According to the Center of Climate Change and Energy Solutions, it’s unclear whether climate change will increase the number of hurricanes per year.

However, research indicates that warmer weather and high ocean temperatures will most likely lead to more intense storms, ultimately causing more damage and devastation.

» Want to learn more about climate change? Here’s an article on The Paris Agreement: Is The World’s Climate Action Plan on Track?

Where does this data come from?

Source:Brian McNoldy, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

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