Natural disasters have long been a source of fascination, and they're a recurring subject in movies and TV shows. But even though movies like Twister and The Day After Tomorrow can be big draws at the box office, they're far from realistic depictions of actual meteorology. While movies about weather disasters often have to sacrifice accuracy to be more cinematic, sometimes these inaccuracies are so egregious that they completely misrepresent the dangerous phenomena they're supposed to portray. Worst of all, some of these movies even have characters who claim to be meteorologists, which only spreads the misinformation further.
Luckily, real meteorologists aren't shy about fact-checking weather movies. Here are 12 weather-related details that movies got totally wrong.
- 118 VOTES
In ‘Geostorm,’ One Afghan Town Freezes While The Rest Of The Desert Still Swelters - That’s Impossible Because The Cold Air Has To Go SomewherePhoto: Warner Bros. Pictures
One of the earliest extreme weather events caused by the "Dutch Boy" satellite in Geostorm happens in Afghanistan when fast-moving "sonic waves" cause a hyper-localized freeze that hits a tiny village in Afghanistan. As the movie points out, the surrounding desert is about 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to meteorologist Anthony Marzano, a mini-climate like this just isn't possible. Because cold air is denser than warm air, a blast of cold air like this would sink and disperse outward in all directions, which would both cool the surrounding desert and cause a massive dust storm.Totally wrong?
- 212 VOTES
The San Andreas Fault Can't Cause A Wave Nearly As Big As The One In 'San Andreas'Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Sometimes when it comes to movies and weather, the inaccuracy is more related to the scale of the event rather than whether the event itself can actually occur. The San Andreas Fault is one of the world's most famous geological fault lines, but it can't cause a tsunami nearly as big as the one in San Andreas. According to earthquake expert Morgan Page, the San Andreas Fault is a "transform" style fault, in which two tectonic plates move horizontally in opposite directions. These don't often generate tsunamis.
The kind of fault that can create earthquakes big enough to devastate the Golden Gate Bridge is a convergent fault, in which one tectonic plate is subsumed by another. It's also possible that an undersea landslide could cause a tsunami this big - but not the San Andreas Fault.Totally wrong?
- 311 VOTES
In ‘Twister,’ They Supposedly See The Eye Of The Tornado, Which Is Not PossiblePhoto: Warner Bros.
In a pivotal moment in Twister, Jo and Bill take refuge from the F5 storm by hiding in a barn, where they strap themselves to some pipes. When the storm approaches and destroys the barn, the two storm chasers are lifted off the ground and towards the tornado's funnel. As the storm passes over them, Jo and Bill can see the "eye" of the tornado, while ethereal music plays.
While it's possible to see the eye of a hurricane - it's called the "stadium effect," because it feels like being in the center of a massive stadium - that's not the case with tornadoes. According to meteorologist Don Schwenneker, it's impossible to see the "eye" of a tornado from inside it. Although, admittedly, he hasn't been inside a tornado himself.Totally wrong?
- 427 VOTES
In ‘Sharknado,’ A Storm Picks Up Sharks, But Sharks Can Actually Sense Weather Changes And Would Swim To Deep Water To Be SafePhoto: The Asylum
To be fair, a movie like Sharknado probably isn't trying to be 100% scientifically accurate about tornadoes, or "waterspouts" as they're called when they're over the water. In the movie, a massive storm picks up hundreds of sharks and deposits them on unsuspecting humans on land. Scientists actually do know what happens to sharks during storms.
While waterspouts have been known to pick up smaller fish or frogs, that's not the case with sharks. Sharks can sense changes in pressure related to storms, and when a waterspout approaches, they swim to deeper water for safety.Totally wrong?