Weather In The Movies : Waterworld (1995)

Sam Wilkinson
9/17/2014
Meteorology 1010-002
Weather In The Movies : Waterworld (1995)

 

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The polar ice caps have completely melted, all land has virtually disappeared from the face of the earth, and every human being or mutant, is fighting for survival. Fresh drinking water has become the most valuable resource on earth, and everyone wants to find “dry land”. Pirates and slavers rule with fear and violence by dominated the oceans and conquering and killing anyone who may have resources that they need. This film follow Mariner, a mutant man who can breath under water and has webbed feet like a duck. Without spoiling the ending that none could have seen coming, Mariner saves a mother and daughter from pirates, but soon discovers that the pirates want something much more valuable than the two woman. This is the extreme setting of the post apocalyptic film “Waterworld”. What is happening currently on earth that might support a “waterworld” scenario, and what about the Waterworld film that is highly unlikely or even impossible to happen on earth? After doing research and watching the film, I believe I have a much better understanding of the polar ice cap and what may or may not happen to our earth if they were to completely melt.
The film being set in the future after the polar ice has completely melted is a very interesting concept. This is a topic of discussion to many climate and weather experts as a very plausible and possible scenario for them to melt significantly over he next one hundred. “Scientists project as much as a 3-foot sea-level rise by 2100. According to a 2001 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, this increase would inundate 22,400 square miles of land along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina”. The shrinking of the Arctic ice cap is accelerating global warming. Snow and ice usually form a protective and cooling layer over the Arctic. When the covering melts, the earth absorbs more sunlight, gets hotter, and this shrinks the ice cap even more and the cycles repeats itself. According to research  a study published by the National Research Council/The National Academies Press, The average global temperatures are expected to increase by 2°F to 11.5°F by 2100, depending on the level of future greenhouse gas emissions, and the outcomes from various climate models.  This temperature increase will support the melting of the ice cap, and the ice cap melting will lead to more global warming and more ice cap melting. So does this real world research apply at all to the fictional world of “Waterworld” ? It applies greatly but I think the director and writers had to take many creative liberties to get this film onto the silver screen.

qthinice1910px-Global_Temperature_Anomaly.svg

 

First things first, if scientist expect the earths sea level to rise only 3 feet in the next 100 years, then how many years have passed since any people of  Waterworld have seen land? Nobody in water world has seen land or even remembers seeing it. We know this because everyone is trying to find land but nobody remembers anything about land animals or much about plants besides a few small lime plants that we see in the film. It is hard to say how many years in the future water world is set, but if there is virtually no land on earth left, then we could conclude that it might take over 900,000 years for the sea levels to rise above the highest point on earth which is Mt. Everest at 29,028 feet. assuming over 900,000 years have passed by, how are they sustaining themselves with limited fresh drinking water? How are they still finding supplies and materials that would have degraded from the intense heat and excessive salt water after just 100 years? These are the crucial questions that make me second guess the realism of this epic film.

rising-sea-level1
We know that after 900,000 years without human maintenance there would be almost no sign of what was before Waterworld, and especially true if the earth was covered in highly corrosive salt water. In the film we see many plastic bottles which would be gone after just 450 years. We also see a lot of aluminum and other metals which would have been long gone after 200 – 600 years. The only item  I saw in the film that would have realistically still been around would be glass. Glass takes around one to two million years to decompose, but we really don’t see that much of it in Waterworld compared to the many other items that would have been dust after 900,000 years. In reality, the limited amount of supplies that would be available to the surviving creatures would not sustain any significant population for very long.
A great film with a few minor scientific discrepancies, so what? I was entertained! Even if there wouldn’t be any boats left to sail, not enough water to survive, or any supplies to use to try and survive. Even if the director may have screwed up a few times by accidentally showing land off in the distance in a few scenes, this is a great and entertaining film that should go down in history as one of the best weather apocalyptic filmsof all time. Maybe I could develop a DVD and TV that could last over 900,000 years, so if the earth really does become a “Waterworld” the citizens of that earth may watch the film that predicted there exact situation.
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1. global warming puts the arctic on ice, natural resources defense council, 11/22/2005,Web, http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/qthinice.asp
2.   Advancing the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council, The National Academies Press, 2010, web, http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/sample-page/panel-reports/87-2/
3. This and That, There and Here, HOW LONG DOES STUFF TAKE TO DECOMPOSE, 02/5/2012, web blog, http://padmum.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/592/

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