The Day After Tomorrow: This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery
July 29, 2004 10:31 AM   Subscribe

When paleoclimatologist William Hyde was asked whether he'd be watching the well-known educational film The Day After Tomorrow, he replied that he wouldn't endure it unless he was given $100. This challenge set in motion a series of wholly predictable events which saw the denizens of rec.arts.sf.written heroically raising the required sum against Hyde's protestations and duly sent him packing to cinema.

What did Hyde think? "The best summary of the movie comes from The Simpsons: 'It's cold and there are wolves.' - Abe."
posted by adrianhon (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I forgot to mention - it's via this week's New Scientist, and Hyde's review is a good laugh to read.
posted by adrianhon at 10:33 AM on July 29, 2004

The funniest scene in the movie (and I'm sure it was
intentional) has our friends outrunning frost.

Ok, maybe I don't need to see this movie.
posted by goethean at 10:42 AM on July 29, 2004

Give us the link to the New Scientist article. We're all lazy here.
posted by banished at 10:42 AM on July 29, 2004

Here's the link - you weren't missing much.
posted by adrianhon at 10:49 AM on July 29, 2004

I always enjoy real scientists commenting on horrible movie "science", such as Bad Astronomy
posted by falconred at 10:56 AM on July 29, 2004

good link, thanks, funny review
posted by matteo at 11:06 AM on July 29, 2004

posted by Outlawyr at 11:10 AM on July 29, 2004

Back in '99 or so, I was posting things on public "pose a question" forums like :

"I'm planning on buying a house in the Boston Metro area and I'm worried that a slowdown or shutdown of thermohaline circulation could have a negative impact on the real estate market value of my newly purchased home."

People would assume I was a nut and then I'd ambush them with links from NOAA, NASA, the US Academy of Science, yadda yadda.

I was kind of fun but quite useless.

I also used a gift certificate and bought Whitley Streiber's book - from which the movie was lifted almost in it's entirety.

I wasn't the "science" of the movie - for it wasn't science at all, but entertainment based on highly informed speculative sensationalist fiction (Streiber and Bell's book) - that made me cringe.

No, it was the "rogue scientist-hero" theme that I found especially cringeworthy. In fact, nonlinear climate change has been discussed among ten of thousands (at least) of trained scientists working in the field or in related fields - and, by '98 or so, the notion or idea that sudden, nonlinearity driven climate shifts could happen (and quite abruptly) was widely acknowledged.

Now as far as the "Superstorm" concept, well - that's speculation. I don't know if it's possible or not, but even if it were, it would depend on the speed at which ocean circulation dropped off.

Ocean circulation has declined 20-30% in the last two decades or so, but part of that might be due to natural cyclic variability. I don't believe the causation has been definitively tied to human influence via Global Climate Change.

At Wood's Hole though - the authoritative research voice, if any, on the subject - they're calling for a complete or partial cessation in 50 years and perhaps as soon as a decade.

Researchers in the field became extremely circumspect about talking to reporters and the public after Streiber and Bell's "Weatherboiler" came out, but I did get one researcher close to the forefront to verify that - if heat transport via the Gulf Stream currents were stop - "weather", moving masses of air would pick up the "slack" (the heat transport function). The physics of that is quite simple and transparent even to my primitive understanding of science.

But that says nothing about the velocity - or energy potential - those moving air masses would have.

Of course that would "load" the dice during storms and hurricanes - higher wind, bigger storms and so on.

But superstorms ?

As I said, Streiber is actually rather well informed - but he's not a scientist. He's a sensationalist (and a good one).


As for the wolves.......they should have thrown in some grizzly bears too.

And maybe some vicious rats, and an emu with a mean streak.

Weather is just so impersonal - you just get cold and fucking freeze. Big deal. It's not very dramatic on film, not at all like a young man fighting an enraged grizzly bear while armed only with a short sword or like the spectacle bit-actors being kicked to death by rabid emus or having the flesh picked off their bodies - right down to the bones - by swarms of hungry, voracious rodents.


The Dick Cheney stand-in VP character was a nice touch. But, the President was like an amalgamation of GW Bush and Al Gore. Well, a Bush clone might have seemed, err...partisan.

Not that the film's producers were expecting to sell tickets to many Republicans.

It did make owning an SUV seem more useful though - in the event of a superstorm.


I spent $4.50 on my ticket. It wasn't too much of a waste. I liked the giant tornado scene.

But, I think "The Towering Inferno" (too much like 9-11 now for comfort) and "The Poseidon Adventure" were better movies.

Ah, the 70's....
posted by troutfishing at 11:20 AM on July 29, 2004

Here's a really good Bad Physics site, falconred. Check out the reviews, especially for The Core, which is a really entertaining crappy movie.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:26 AM on July 29, 2004

Oh - another note : my parents have lived about 20 miles inland from the Mass. coast for over three decades now.

They say it's never been so cool and rainy in the summertime as this summer. It's almost like the Pacific Northwest, as if there's a huge circulatory cell pumping moist cool air off the water and dropping it further inland than ever before.

I think that would tend to happen if ocean circulation had dropped off somewhat or if the warm Gulf Stream currents no longer reached the Mass. shores or had at least declined. The increased heat differential would likely drive the coastal cooling effect farther inland.

But, I am not a scientist working in the field or in a related field and - in fact - am not even a scientist at all. I do, however, have a GED.

posted by troutfishing at 11:30 AM on July 29, 2004

hilarious. this reminds me of when some of my climbing friends and I went to see Vertical Limit ("There's going to be rock!")
posted by jacobsee at 11:32 AM on July 29, 2004

The moral of this story: he should have asked for $1000.
posted by papercake at 11:57 AM on July 29, 2004

Shouldn't it be "I'm cold--and there are wolves after me"?
posted by mookieproof at 12:05 PM on July 29, 2004

I was kind of fun but quite useless.

I could say that about myself in so many past relationships.
posted by quasistoic at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2004

Very fun. Reminds me of when Letterman had a welder review Jennifer Beals' technique in "Flashdance."
posted by merlinmann at 12:26 PM on July 29, 2004

...137 MilliPeeves, where one Peeve equals the feeling you get then the coffee shop runs out of your favourite creamer, and you have to use your second favourite.

HAHAHA I enjoyed reading that. The above quote made me laugh outloud. millipeeves to the nth power !!!
posted by a3matrix at 12:36 PM on July 29, 2004

It amazes me that people go to see this tripe. :::tosses it into the barrel of don't-care-to-see with I, Robot:::
posted by rushmc at 1:12 PM on July 29, 2004

O man, let's not get started on Vertical Limit. That made Cliffhanger look like a documentary.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:17 PM on July 29, 2004

Great link! Hilarious! Two thumbs up!
posted by jasper411 at 1:21 PM on July 29, 2004

quasistoic - I saw that mispelling after I hit the post button....then kind of liked it. It works that work as well.

That's a George W. Bush habit - mis-speech that reveals an underlying truth.
posted by troutfishing at 1:41 PM on July 29, 2004

Up....did it again.
posted by troutfishing at 1:42 PM on July 29, 2004

Good link, I had fun reading that. As for the movie, I think (hope) most people understood it was dumb before the previews finnished. It was just an updated disaster flick. The visuals rocked and the acting was so achingly flat I laughed out loud nearly a dozen times. Plus the smart chick was hot! And smart!

I only paid a buck and watched it while drinking beer at a second-run theater. It would'nt be worth the full ticket price.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:32 PM on July 29, 2004

elwoodwiles - damn you! Your ticket was $3.50 cheaper than mine. How much did your beer, per unit ounce, cost ? Did you eat popcorn as well ?

I feel like I've been taken - as another hapless consumer mark eating predigested and overpriced Hollywood swill.
posted by troutfishing at 8:10 PM on July 29, 2004

What jasper411 said. Thanks for clueing me in, adrianhon. Hyde's review *is* hilarious, and the whole story's a hoot.
posted by mediareport at 10:07 PM on July 29, 2004

Meanwhile, Greenland ice-melt 'speeding up'
posted by homunculus at 12:13 AM on July 30, 2004

jacobsee and gottabefunky, I for one would enjoy seeing what experienced climbers have to say about those movies. Any other experts care to comment on other movie gaffes? This stuff is a hoot. It often amazes me when tens of millions of dollars are spent on a film and there are such unnecessarily stupid things in the movie.
posted by Songdog at 5:56 AM on July 30, 2004

homunculus - holy crap, that's bad. That will change the ocean circulation slowdown/shutdown models dramatically - that's a huge torrent of fresh water dumping into one of the major thermohaline driven downwelling sites for the conveyor, and the local freshening effect has to be exerting a forcing of the system far greater than previously anticipated.

I don't like that at all. I'm off to Wood's Hole to see what they think of this news.
posted by troutfishing at 9:45 AM on July 30, 2004

« Older Has The War Against Silence been won?   |   Barefoot Solar Engineers Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments