Floods, bugs and Hollywood disasters

Behind apocalyptic hyperbole of Hollywood lies food for thought on global warming Instantaneous ice ages, grapefruit-size hail and tidal waves — all courtesy of global warming — are being served up as Memorial Day weekend entertainment in movie theaters.

The side order: A little scientific food for thought.

"The Day After Tomorrow," a star-studded movie that paints a vivid picture of global climatic catastrophe, is a simplistic look at the complex and real issue of a potential outcome of global warming, said David Skole, professor and director of MSU's Center for Global Change and Earth Observations.

"This is a complicated problem — it's not like a movie where it's catastrophic overnight, but there is some science behind it," Skole said. "It stems from abrupt climate change. Changes in storm frequency and intensity; changes in water availability; changes of pests and related disease — that's the story."

Scientists across the globe, including Skole, struggle to better quantify and understand local impacts of changes in global climate patterns. Skole has been a member of the Academies of Science committee to review the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. www.nap.edu/books/0309088658/html/ "We must not forget the literary license which Hollywood takes in making such films," Skole said. "While they do a lot to enhance viewer appeal, I think there is some scientific basis in the topic, even if the details are sometimes way wrong. It's important to note that a movie can get away with these wild depictions precisely because the science of abrupt climate change is only in its infancy."

Contact: David Skole, professor and director of MSU's Center for Global Change and Earth Observations, 517-355-1778, skole@msu.edu, www.globalchange.msu.edu/day_after_tomorrow_big.

Contact: Sue Nichols
Michigan State University

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