The Day After Tomorrow - Journal of Omnifarious
May. 29th, 2004
06:35 pm - The Day After Tomorrow
I just saw that movie today. I do think that it's entirely possible that massive climate change could happen very suddenly. I also think the storms they posit in the movie are also possible. The concept of a storm that reaches high into the atmosphere and creates a sort of reverse tornado pulling in tons of extremely cold air down is reasonable.
I don't think the shutting down of the Atlantic current they speak of could cause the storms they use as the device to justify a climate change that happens over the course of a couple of weeks. In fact, from what I've read, the likely effect of this is for Europe to be about 5-10 degrees celcius cooler (a very significant change) for a decade or two until salt water builds up again and restarts the current.
The trouble is, it's hard to say with any degree of certainty at all. The climate is a chaotic system. If you've watched a chaos based screensaver for any length of time, you get a feel for what goes on in chaotic systems. The states the system goes through jump around all over the place, but stay roughly in the same general area until some small change causes things to shift very suddenly to having the states jump around a completely different area. This is actually repeated on all scales. Small dust vortices, large storm systems, tornadoes, you name it, they are all a temporary 'attractor' in which the system occupies a temporary stable state that quickly changes.
It's very difficult to trace down the exact cause of the shift when this happens. It can happen naturally. Having some factor (like global warming) that constantly pushes the system in a different direction will also make it more likely. But there is no one thing you can track it down to.
The thing that makes me really nervous about global warming is that the effect is definitely real. And it doesn't matter much exactly how big it is. The climate can respond very dramatically to small pushes. Global warming, as it currently stands, is a small push being exerted over a long period of time. The push is getting larger as time progresses. It's only a matter of time before something shifts.
The movie is a good warning, even if it over-dramatizes the problem.