'The Day After Tomorrow' - fact or fiction?
28 May 2004
'The Day After Tomorrow' - the latest Hollywood blockbuster movie released yesterday - depicts an extreme rapid climate change event following the sudden shutdown of the North Atlantic overturning circulation due to global warming.
The film by Roland Emmerich, maker of 'Independence Day', is a dramatic portrayal of possible consequences of climate change.
But could this really happen?
The UK is taking the lead in rapid climate change research to try to answer that question. A £20m Rapid Climate Change programme (known as RAPID for short) is being funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Working with partners in the UK and abroad, the aim of RAPID is to determine the probability of rapid climate change and its likely impact
Says Dr Meric Srokosz, Science Co-ordinator for RAPID, "While the film is a classic disaster movie featuring hugely exaggerated events - for example, total shutdown of the ocean circulation takes place over a few days rather than the decades that seem scientifically feasible - it does present some genuine scientific information about ocean circulation, ice core sampling and past climate shifts. We know from studying Greenland ice cores and North Atlantic marine sediment records, that extremely abrupt climate changes have occurred repeatedly in the past."
The film has been broadly welcomed by scientists as a way to raise awareness about the importance of climate change issues.
Dr Srokosz says, "There are serious scientific concerns that greenhouse warming might cause a slowdown of the North Atlantic circulation, further perturbing the climate system. Present understanding would suggest that rapid climate change in the near future is very unlikely, but should it happen its impact on Western European economy and society would be serious. We need to improve our knowledge of the climate system and of the processes involved and that is exactly what the RAPID programme aims to do."
Southampton Oceanography Centre
Tel: 023 8059 6170
NERC Press Office
Natural Environment Research Council
Polaris House, North Star Avenue
Swindon, SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411561
Mob: 07917 557215
1. The RAPID project office is hosted by the Southampton Oceanography Centre, which is where Dr Srokosz is based.
From the 1st May 2005 Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC) is known as the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS).
2. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is one of the UK's research councils. It uses a budget of about £300m a year to fund and carry out impartial scientific research in the sciences of the environment. NERC trains the next generation of independent environmental scientists. It is addressing some of the key questions facing mankind such as global warming, renewable energy and sustainable economic development.
Press release: 13/04
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