By Sam Pijpers 9E

How realistic are disaster movies?


In this article I'll be investigating the realism of a famous Hollywood disaster movie "The day after tomorrow" which was released in seventeenth of may 2004 by Ronald Emmerich and Mark Gordon.

What are tornadoes and where are they commonly found?

A tornado is a destructive vortex of violently rotating winds. Tornadoes are most common in the central part of the United States, known as the Great Plains. This area is suited to bring all of the ingredients together to forms tornadoes. More than 500 tornadoes typically occur in this area every year and this is why it is commonly known as Tornado Alley.
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How are tornadoes formed?

Tornadoes are formed due to large super cells. Super cells are nothing but a huge cluster of thunderstorm clouds. A simple explanation to its formation is as follows: warm air rises up as it has a low vapor pressure and cold air drops down because of its high vapor pressure. Due to this, the warm air in the end forms a vortex and forms a funnel cloud, otherwise known as a tornado. A characteristic green color appears in the sky when a tornado is completely formed and ready for destruction.

What types of tornadoes are there?

There are various types of tornadoes and they can characterized according to the level of damage they can cause. Fujita or Enhanced Fujita(EF) scale scale is a reference scale to characterize the tornado according to the magnitude of the destruction. EF0 being the least destructive and EF6 being the most extreme.

There are different types of tornadoes which are observed all over the world. Some of them are:

Waterspout Tornado:

It is tornado that is formed over a water body, usually an ocean or sea.They are similar to the mesocyclonic thunderstorm tornadoes but are formed over a water body. A waterspout is not a destructive tornado as it spans itself over less than 2 km. Tornadoes of these type cause damage that tends to be EF2 or

Landspout Tornado:

These are similar to waterspout tornadoes in terms of relative weakness, short lifespan, and a small, smooth condensation funnel which often does not reach the surface. There is no rotating updraft – the spinning motion originates near the ground. They are usually weaker than normal tornadoes but can create winds which can cause serious damage

Dust-Devil Tornado:

They are similar to the normal tornadoes, of vertically rotating column of air. But they occur under clean skies and are very weak. They form when a strong hot updraft is formed near the ground on a hot day. A Dust-Devil tornado occurs when the sun heats dry land surfaces forming a twisting column of air. These types of tornadoes are commonly known as willy willy in Australia.

Gustnado Tornado:

This type of tornado has a gust like vertical updraft of air. They are not connected with a cloud base. They are formed when cold dry updraft of air mixes with the moist cool air which is stationary resulting in a rolling effect. A Gustnado is short-lived and lasts from few seconds to minutes.

Facts about tornadoes

Here are some facts about tornadoes:

• A tornado is a rapidly spinning tube of air that touches both the ground and a cloud above.

• Most tornadoes have wing speeds less than 100 miles per hour (161 kilometres per hour).

• A tornado that occurs over water is often called a waterspout.

• In 1989 the deadliest tornado ever recorded in the world killed around 1300 people in Bangladesh.

How Does The Film Specify Its Disaster

There are some aspects of the film that is true to reality. For example the film is set in a dark, cloudy weather which is realistic because the disaster is caused by the development of the rain and clouds.

Also it's realistic that cars and other heavy objects are flying because it's true that these kind of things happen in a tornado.

Finally the reaction of the people is quite realistic as well. Due to its law efficiency of tornadoes in Los Angeles citizens will not know its danger and would want to record the disaster.

Differentiation Between Hollywood Depictions And Realism

Before pointing out some small differences between the realism and the movie there are bigger differences to consider. One of the major point is the possibility. Tornadoes barely happen in Los Angeles and the tornado in 2014 was the first in a dozen years. The tornado in Los Angeles was so small that the tornado didn't injure anyone. In the film however, there are three or four massive tornadoes striking the city of Los Angeles. It is extremely unlikely that this kind of tornado will happen in Los Angeles. The size of the destruction by the disaster in this city is absurd.
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Throughout this article I found multiple of reasons proving that the Hollywood disaster movie does not specify it's disaster. So my answer to my research question would be "Hollywood disaster movies are not realistic" The reason being is that Hollywood needs to sell their movies and if a disaster movie was to be impressive it needs to be magnified. In this case, I believe the film was set in Los Angeles because it's unlikely that a large twister would be seen at L.A. making it more geomatic. Because, if this film was set somewhere in tornado alley it'll be boring due to the fact that cities in tornado alley knows how to defend themselves from tornadoes, minimising destruction and death. In a real life situation this is essential but it'll be dull for a film. Therefore "The Day After Tomorrow" does not define tornadoes, however disaster movies are not supposed to specify it's disaster but to entertain audiences with the best way.