Washington: Hollywood rarely gets anything right with its science-fiction films, but in the case of the 2004 film ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ it may be right.
A researcher from the University of Southampton has produced a scientific study of the climate scenario featured in the disaster movie, wherein climate warming caused an abrupt collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), leading to catastrophic events such as tornados destroying Los Angeles, New York being flooded and the northern hemisphere freezing.
Although the scientific credibility of the film drew criticism from climate scientists, the scenario of an abrupt collapse of the AMOC, as a consequence of anthropogenic greenhouse warming, was never assessed with a state-of-the-art climate model.
Using the German climate model ECHAM at the Max-Planck Institute in Hamburg, Sybren Drijfhout found that, for a period of 20 years, the earth will cool instead of warm if global warming and a collapse of the AMOC occur simultaneously. Thereafter, global warming continues as if the AMOC never collapsed, but with a globally averaged temperature offset of about 0.8 degree C.
Drijfhout said that the planet earth recovers from the AMOC collapse in about 40 years when global warming continues at present-day rates, but near the eastern boundary of the North Atlantic (including the British Isles) it takes more than a century before temperature is back to normal.
However, the study says that the recent period of very weak warming cannot be attributed to one single cause. Most probably El NiÃ±o plays a role and possibly also changes in the Southern Ocean due to shifting and increasing westerlies.
The study appears in Scientific Reports.