Geography at the Movies - Jessica Zuzarte


Hollywood disaster movies are quite a popular genre of film. This poster will explore the realism of the scenes shown in the film, The Day After Tomorrow - Tornadoes Destroy Hollywood, which was produced in 2004. This movie is a movie involving the natural disaster, Tornadoes. The movie The Day After Tomorrow - Tornadoes Destroy Hollywood, is about a paleoclimatologist (Jack Hall), and he studies the earth's weather patterns. All over Earth, the climate system changes for the worst. Tokyo is hit by softball size hail; it begins to snow in New Delhi; and Los Angeles is destroyed by a group of huge F5 tornadoes that hit all at the same time.

Location - Where do they usually occur?

The location where tornadoes usually occurs are Oklahoma, much better known as “Tornado Alley”. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana all make up Tornado Alley. In this area there are more than 500 tornados per year.

Map of Tornado Alley

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How does the hazard work in reality?

Winds at different altitudes within the thunderstorm increase and change direction. This is called wind shear. It creates an invisible tunnel of air. If this tunnel gets caught up in the upward energy of a thunderstorm, it begins to strengthen and speed up. This upward energy then tilts the rotating air from horizontal to vertical. As a result, a funnel cloud is produced and it is the rain and the hail from a thunderstorm that causes the funnel to touch the ground and from a tornado.

Formation of a Tornado

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Types of Tornadoes

There are many types of tornadoes and are all very destructive in their own way.

Types of Tornadoes:

  • Multiple Vortex Tornado
In Multiple Vortex Tornadoes, in some cases there are two or more spinning columns of air around a common centre. These vortices often create small areas of heavier damage along the main tornado path.

  • Waterspout Tornado
A waterspout tornado are weak twisters that form over warm water. They sometimes move onto land and form tornadoes. 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 less.

  • Landspout Tornado
These are similar to waterspout tornadoes in terms of weakness, having a short lifespan, and a small, smooth condensation funnel which often does not reach the surface. They are usually weaker than normal tornadoes but can create winds which can cause serious damage.

  • Dust - Devil Tornado
Dust devils are small, rapidly rotating columns of air that are made visible by the dust and dirt they pick up. They are similar to the normal tornadoes, of vertically rotating column of air. But they occur under clean skies and are very weak.A Dust-Devil tornado occurs when the sun heats dry land surfaces forming a twisting column of air.

  • Gustado Tornado
This type of tornado has a gust like vertical updraft of air. Gustado Tornadoes are formed by cold dry updraft of air mixing with moist cool air.

Case Study: Oklahoma Moore Tornado (2013)

The tornado I am comparing the movie to is the Moore Tornado which occurred in Oklahoma on May 20th, 2013. This tornado was a EF5 tornado with peak winds of around 210 mph. This tornado killed an estimated number of 34 people and injured about 377 others. An estimated 1,150 homes were destroyed, resulting in an estimated $2 billion in damages. Among the hardest hit areas were two public schools: Briarwood Elementary School and Plaza Towers Elementary School.

How does your film clip differ from reality? / Comparsion

One way that the film is unrealistic is the location that the movie was filmed. The Day After Tomorrow - Tornadoes Destroy Hollywood was filmed in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, there aren't that many tornadoes, only a few smaller ones and is very rare. In the movie clip, there is 3 different columns of air, also known as a Multiple Vortex Tornado. Later on in the clip these 3 columns of wind and air join together to form 1 column of air and destructs everything in it's path. At first, it is quite unrealistic because the 3 tornadoes are really far apart from each other, when usually they stay quite close to each other in reality. Everything in the movie shakes really unrealistically, for example when the people are shaking, their hair is not moving and really adds a unrealistic effect. Another unrealistic feature is when the helicopters swoop next to the tornadoes. This seems unreal because you would think that the helicopter gets sucked into the tornado as it was so close. Another reason I found it unrealistic was how big the pieces of debris was flying around. These were really big and the way that they swooped people away was quite unrealistic.

In conclusion, I believe that based on the clip and features of an actual natural disaster, this film is quite unrealistic. Overall I would rate this movie a 7/10 for it's realism.


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