In many of the disaster movies made many liberties concerning scientific realism are taken. The cause for these liberties in the truth that the mass amount of people finds the actual science boring and one thing that we can say is that boring movies do not sell. In The Day After Tomorrow (2004), we find a movie that actually brings a hint of scientific realism, as well as an eye catching story line to the screen. I mean don’t get me wrong, this film still holds many liberties that can and are rebuffed by the scientific community.
The basic idea introduced about ocean desalinization due to melting ice caps is actually a reasonable idea. The Gulf Stream is the strong ocean currents that bring warm tropical waters north, moderating ocean temperatures. The stream relies on a delicate balance between salt and fresh water in the oceans. According to the movie, due to green house gasses heating up the atmosphere polar ocean caps have been melting (adding fresh water to the oceans), and that the gulf stream will reverse, carrying cold water South, chilling the Earth. The switch in the Gulf Stream is the cause for the torrential weather systems located all across the globe.
Apart from the idea concerning ocean salinity, the remainder of the movie is very “Hollywood-esc”. First off the idea that these hurricane type storms will form over large masses of land. Hurricanes are formed as cool air passes over warm water, causing the storm rotation. It would be impossible for these storms to form over land, due to a lack of the temperature difference.
Assuming that these storms could actually form, we deal with the idea that super cooled air would be brought down to the surface, and would remain super cooled. This is disproved because pressure is greater near the surface, and air applied to high pressure has to heat up. This scientific fact acts contrarily to the “fact” expressed in the film that the air moves downward too rapidly to heat up.
More troubles come about in the analysis of the water flooding into New York. First off the storm surge is said to be around 40 feet tall, yet it reaches over midway on the 151 foot tall Statue of Liberty. Second when the water floods into the city it freezes within a matter of movie hours allowing for people to walk across the ice. The temperatures that would allow such vast amounts of water to freeze in such a short period of time would have surely killed all of the characters who at that point were still taking refuge in the main room of the library. Actually the temperatures that would cause this water to freeze would not have arrived until the “super storm” hit. Also the wolfs that apparently escaped from the zoo prior to the flood, somehow managed to survive both the 40 foot tall wall of water, and the freezing temperatures that froze it. Some wolves are adapted to survive in sub zero temperatures, however these wolves would not be able to survive in a regular holding stall in New York City do to their insulating layers.
One thing that can be taken from this film is that it is necessary to have a good storyline in order to sell movie tickets, regardless of the scientific fallacies used.