You may remember the film "The Day After Tomorrow" as a sci-fi thriller, but climate scientists working with the IPCC warn that it might be more realistic than once thought.
When “The Day After Tomorrow” came out in 2004, people found it farfetched and unrealistic. According to a report from Salon, however, the climate destruction occurring in the film may not be so far from reality after all.
A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the shifts in our climate are becoming increasingly “non-linear.” This means that instead of the same amount of heat energy added to global climate systems each year, feedback loops make the changes more pronounced over time. This has worried many scientists that we are plowing towards a catastrophic tipping point, past which damage to the climate would be irreversible.
“The Day After Tomorrow” shocked audiences by depicting a world where melting polar ice caps had serious effects throughout the entire world. New York City froze over, and massive ocean waves slammed into bridges and buildings causing utter destruction. When it was released in 2004, scientists were quick to point out how extreme and sensationalized the scenes were, but now they aren’t so sure.
The changes to the climate depicted in the film centered on a major disruption in the North Atlantic Ocean Current, which is an extension of the Gulf Stream. The current carries warm saline water from the equatorial regions toward the northern areas in the Atlantic. This helps to keep the climate in Europe temperate. When the warm water reaches the edges of the Arctic, it chills and sinks, and begins the long journey south below the warm currents.
This current, referred to as a “global conveyer belt,” or the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, keeps warm waters arriving on the coasts of Europe and North America. If this current system were to break down, the water in North Atlantic regions would no longer receive warm water from the Caribbean, and Europe and the northeast would begin to get a lot colder.