12 Details That Movies Get Totally Wrong About Weather And Storms According To Meteorologists
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.
- 160 VOTES
In 'Everest,' Characters Frequently Have Their Faces Uncovered; This Would Cause Frostbite In MinutesPhoto: Universal Pictures
The 2015 film Everest tells the story of two groups of mountain climbers who attempt to scale the world's largest mountain, and when one group goes missing, the second has to rescue them. Throughout the movie, several characters have their faces uncovered, regardless of whether they're experiencing stormy or clear conditions. According to meteorologist David Yeomans, this would be an extremely bad idea.
At alpine altitudes like those found on Mt. Everest, temperatures are so low that people with exposed skin would experience frostbite in a matter of minutes. On the other hand, it's difficult to imagine a big-budget adventure film going two full hours without showing any of its movie stars' faces, whether it's supposed to be freezing or not.
- 268 VOTES
The San Andreas Fault Can't Cause A Wave Nearly As Big As The One In 'San Andreas'
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.
- 353 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 Somewhere
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.
- 432 VOTES
In ‘Geostorm,’ One Giant Storm Covers The Earth, But A Real Storm That Big Would Just Rain Itself Out
The 2017 film Geostorm is about a team of scientists who create a satellite system capable of neutralizing extreme weather events. When a team of rogue actors sabotages the satellites, it has the opposite effect of actually causing those extreme weather events. One of the most dangerous is a potential "geostorm," or a worldwide rainstorm that threatens all life on the planet.
According to meteorologist Anthony Marzano, a planet-wide rainstorm isn't possible. Rainstorms grow due to the power of their updraft column, which is the rising of warm air into the atmosphere. The more powerful the updraft column, the bigger the storm. But even "supercell" storms don't sustain their growth indefinitely, because the downward motion of the rain acts as a counterbalance. As big storms deposit rainfall, their power is depleted. A "worldwide storm" would rain itself out long before it became a global problem.
- 546 VOTES
In ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ The Tornado Picks Up Dorothy’s House, But That Is Not Likely; It Probably Would Have Just Been Wiped Out On The GroundPhoto: Loew's, Inc
The 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz memorably opens with a massive tornado that hits Dorothy's Kansas farmhouse, picking it up and her along with it and depositing her in the faraway land of Oz. Obviously, tornadoes can't transport people and objects to magical realms, but the more real-world inaccuracy is that tornadoes don't pick up houses and deposit them somewhere else fully intact.
According to The Weather Channel meteorologist Stephanie Abrams, tornadoes are much more likely to completely demolish a house on the ground, without picking it up.
- 656 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.