Monday, July 08, 2013

Geological Movie Review of The Day After Tomorrow - Part 4

- Building Up Storms -
- International Space Station -
International Space Station0:15:41 - We have entered the part of the movie where the major global storms start to manifest themselves. Our first view is from space, in what I can only assume is the International Space Station (ISP) since it was the only space station at the time of the movie (2002) (NASA). The figure to the right shows the space station in the movie (on top) versus an image of the International Space Station in 2006 (NASA). It is not actually a bad match. Knowing that they add and take modules off of the space station all of the time would account for any minor discrepancies and overall the main part of the station on the right portion of the image matches with the ISP in the bottom portion of the lower photo.
- Enormous Storms -
0:16:02 - One of the astronauts comments that there is an "enormous" storm system. The view that they present from the Space Station indicates that there are in fact three separate storm systems. We also know that this is in the northern hemisphere since one of the astronauts couldn't come home because of bad weather over Cape Canaveral (Florida). The location of all of this freezing and snowing in the northern hemisphere makes sense, since it is winter (November), while the southern hemisphere is in spring/summer mode. At this point in the movie it is difficult to get a scale on the storms since we aren't shown any landmasses. All we know are the locations.
- Weather Birds -
0:20:19 - Although not a geological problem, the massive amount of birds flocking and unusual animal activity has been used in the past to detect significant weather changes (PBS). It appears that animals may be able to pick up the changes in air pressure or small tremors in the Earth that humans do not detect. These changes warn the animals that something bad is going to happen and that they should seek shelter or get out of there. This is possibly the reason that many animals act unusual around storms, because they are trying to get to a safer location.
- "Too Fast" -
0:23:47 - When confronted with the speed at which everything was happening Jack Hall states that this wouldn't happen in our lifetime, it was happening "too fast". I feel the makers of the movie tried to save themselves a little at this point of the movie. The freezing of the Earth was happening much faster than the paleoclimatic models predicted for the previous ice age, which would take thousands of years. The movie even goes on to mention that there are "no forecast models capable of plotting this scenario" except for Jack's Model. However, Jack's model doesn't take into account the speed at which this storm is taking place in the movie. What that says to me is the movie makers take the scientist's worst case scenario in real life and amplify it 1,000-10,000 times. The reason this is unheard of is because it is impossible. The balance of the Earth is such that change on a global scale can not take place over a matter of a couple of days or weeks. It takes thousands of years at least to affect the entire planet. This is the point in the movie when it started to go off the rails and the movie makers wanted to acknowledge that. Jack Hall again correlates this to the event that took place 10,000 years ago, as was discussed previously.
     The new models of this storm have it taking 6-8 weeks before a full blown ice age is on, and then in actuality it takes 7-10 days. Lets first assume that the Gulf Stream has just been shut off, a feasible feet in itself since we are having a major impact on it already ( In theory this will cause a gradual cooling of the northern hemisphere, a little more each year, until snow stops melting in the northern latitudes during the summer. Then as the snow cover increases the Earth becomes whiter, reflecting more sunlight, preventing the sun from warming us and cooling the planet down further until glaciers start to form and so on. In reality, this is going to take a very long time (in regards to human lifespans). So no matter how quickly the Gulf Stream were to stop, the Earth is too big a place to undergo a transition from moderate climate one week to frozen ice ball seven days later.
- That's a Lot of Tornadoes -
0:25:34 - "Cyclonic System": AKA a cyclone - a large-scale atmospheric wind-and-pressure system characterized by low pressure at its center and by circular wind motion, counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere (
California Tornado0:26:12 - As the storms progress and increase in size throughout the first portion of the movie we now have the introduction of tornadoes in Los Angeles. California itself is not immune to tornadoes (a California tornado pictured left) and as of May, 2013 there are 400 tornadoes listed on the Tornado History Project as striking California since 1951 (TornadoHistoryProject). There are even 42 of those 400 that were in Los Angeles county alone and ranged in strength from a F0 to a F2 on the Fujita scale. The largest and most damaging Los Angeles tornado was on March 1st, 1983, a category F2 that traveled 3 miles, had 30 injuries, and caused $5-$50 million in damages. That same day also had one other recorded tornado (TornadoHistoryProject). We are not looking at Mid-West levels of destruction here, but tornadoes are far from unheard of in Los Angeles and California in general.
0:27:15 - As the storms build we then see four tornadoes (Pictured below from the movie) at once reeking havoc on the city. As I stated before, the most damaging tornado in Los Angeles only occurred with one other one but there was a day, November 9th, 1982 when seven tornadoes touched down during one storm in LA. Two of the storms reached an F2 status ( These tornadoes were remnants of Hurricane Iwa from offshore that produced winds exceeding 80 mph (Examiner). In general, the record for the most tornadoes from a single storm is 202 on April 27th, 2011 ( These were all from one storm with a reported 5 F5's on that day as well. So the storm system in the movie is not all that remarkable in that sense. The location and perceived strength (as witnessed by the amount of destruction) of all of these tornadoes in Los Angeles may be a little more unusual.

Day After Tomorrow Tornadoes

In the movie, the winds are reported as exceeding 70 mph. The Enhanced Fujita scale for tornado intensity is based on the wind speed of the tornado as indicated: EF0 = 65-85 mph, EF1 = 86-110, EF2 = 111-135, EF3 = 136-165, EF4 = 166-200, and an EF5 > 200 ( Since the speed of a tornado is hard to measure, the amount of destruction combined with the estimated speeds are used to calculate the EF of the tornado. So the tornadoes in the movie are likely going to be ranked an F0-F1 based on the wind speeds but the amount of damage that they produce indicates that those speeds were far below what is actually likely to be happening. Based on destruction the tornadoes are likely to be EF3-EF5's where an EF3 destruction contains "Entire stories of well-constructed houses destroyed; severe damage to large buildings" up to an EF5 which has damage that includes "automobile-sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 m; high-rise buildings have significant structural deformation; incredible phenomena will occur" ( So it is assumed that at least some of these four tornadoes in the movie are considered an EF3 to an EF5, which in relation to the most tornadoes from one storm is not unprecedented, but it is unusual in the least.
- Merging Tornadoes -
0:27:51 - While flying around in a helicopter we witness a merging of two tornadoes. This is truly a rare occurrence in nature. Typically when people think they see a merging of two tornadoes, one is really just going behind a second one. But in the rare instances when it does happen, usually it is in the form of one larger tornado absorbing a smaller one. The instances where two similar sized tornadoes merging into one larger one is almost unheard of (NOAA).

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