Paleoclimatology at its Finest

“The Day After Tomorrow” depicts a series of weather events that is caused by an abrupt climate change. The main character, Jack Hall, is a paleoclimatologist that uses evidence from the past ice age to predict what could cause another ice age. His theory is that global warming would cause the polar ice caps to melt, dumping fresh, cold water, into the North Atlantic Current. This messes up the balance and amount of fresh water and salt water, therefore creating a desalinization process. He predicts that this will create chaotic weather patterns which end in an ice age. Part of his theory is quite true, but for the most part, it is false.

For starters, temperatures cannot drop as drastically as they did in the movie. Yes, global warming could cause glaciers in the north to melt, adding more fresh water to the ocean. This could affect climates through the Gulf Stream because the North gets their warm water from the tropics. With the added fresh water from the melting of the ice, the climates in the north could drop a few temperatures. This could happen because fresh water is not as dense as salt water. If they mix, then salt water will not be dense enough to sink. In turn, this would slow down and possibly stop the Gulf Stream creating a drastic change in the temperature. However, this would take decades to hundreds of years because the oceans move the heat and cold a lot slower than the atmosphere does.

Additionally, the constant emissions of green-house gases cannot create a total ice age in the Northern Hemisphere. Because we emit so much carbon dioxide and other green-house gases, global warming is triggered. Global warming, however, cannot trigger an ice age. It can cool parts of the Earth through the changing current, but it cannot elicit a full-blown ice age that affects the entire planet.

As for the extreme storms, yes, storms would eventually happen, but not that fast or to that extent. In the tornado scene of Los Angeles, not enough evidence is presented from the past, because of recent technology, to predict whether or not extreme tornadoes are even possible. On the other hand, storms would become more severe due to more evaporation occurring which provides the atmosphere with more water vapor. The heat given off by water vapor that later condenses into rain is how hurricanes are essentially formed which brings us to another main part of the movie. Hurricanes do not form over land. They form over water and dissipate or become weaker as they pass over land mass. Also, the separate storms systems could not merge together to create one giant super-storm. Hurricanes typically bring torrential downpours of rain, not blizzards. Last but not least, the storm cells in the movie are seen rotating clockwise and counter clockwise. Not only is it not consistent, but part of their scenes are wrong. Hurricanes always move counter clockwise due to what is called the Coriolis Effect. This rotation is in itself caused by the Earth’s rotation.

Although the science in this movie is completely implausible, at least it passes on a nice warning. We consume the Earth’s natural resource. Through this consumption, we are destroying the environment. Americans especially take Earth’s resources for granted. Compared to the rest of the Earth, we currently use up the most. This movie is letting us know that if we do not act now, one day our future lineage will have to pay the price. The only problem is this: the message is passed on through a lot of unnecessary, falsified weather anomalies.

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