Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Ed Yeates ReportingWhere will you be the day after tomorrow? 20th Century Fox hopes you'll be getting ready to watch its big blockbuster disaster movie. But as the opening nears, researchers are telling audiences not to put too much stock in it.
What's the debate all about? Catastrophic weather as a prelude to an ice age, blowing in across the globe, almost like the wind.
Temperatures in New York City plummet from sweltering to freezing in hours. Tornadoes hit Los Angeles while grapefruit sized hail pounds Tokyo. And a massive snowstorm batters New Delhi -- all catastrophes ushering in a rapidly advancing ice age.
The special effects will knock you off your seats, but scientifically?
Marshall Bartlett, University of Utah Thermal Geophysics: "The idea of an ice age advancing south rapidly over the course of days to weeks, it makes great cinema, but it's not based in reality."
Marshall Bartlett and Paul Gettings should know. They're researchers in thermal geophysics at the University of Utah. Like their colleagues across the country, the premise of an ice age returning is valid they say, but it would take decades to hundreds of years --NOT hours and weeks.
Paul Gettings, University of Utah Thermal Geophysics: "More generally, even if you drop the temperature a lot, you're still not going to get a giant snowfall everywhere. It's still going to be warm in the tropics. It just might be five degrees cooler."
The real political stinger in the movie suggests it’s our own doing that brings on global warning and the ultimate disaster. While Hollywood pushes the envelope on this one as well, it's an issue scientists cannot so readily dismiss.
Marshall Bartlett: "It's just recognizing the importance of the issue and saying this is something we really need to do something about."
Paul Gettings: "Generally, the economic computations for that show that it's about a factor of a hundred to a thousand times more expensive to pay for it when it occurs than it is to pay for it now."
In othe rwords, Gettings says, hundreds of billions to control greenhouse gasses now or hundreds of trillions of dollars later on to clean up the real-life aftermath.
So, takeThe Day After Tomorrow for what it is and what it isn’t. Remember what you see is not always what's really there.