A new study warns that a combination of various environmental factors including global warming could cause a catastrophic event similar to the one portrayed in the disaster film "The Day After Tomorrow."
This is according to the results produced by a climate model, HNGN reported.
In the 2004 Hollywood film, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid, the increase in temperature caused by global warming led to the collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). This was then followed by abnormal natural disasters such as strong tornadoes, flash floods and other extreme weather-related events in New York and Los Angeles.
Global cooling then occurred which led to the development of a new ice age in the northern hemisphere.
Immediately after the film was released, it was criticized by various scientific experts mainly for its exaggerated representation of the effects of climate change. Others even likened it to a propaganda film to sway the political discussions at that time regarding global warming.
But, it turns out that the events presented in the film could actually happen, according to the findings of Sybren Drijfhout, a professor at the University of Southampton's Ocean and Earth Science.
With the help of ECHAM, a climate model from the Max-Planck Institute in Hamburg, Germany, the scientists was able to analyze the effects and possibility of the AMOC's collapse.
Drijfhout explained that the combined effects of global warming and the breakdown of AMOC will cause the Earth's temperature to drastically drop, instead of rise, for 20 years. Global warming will then take effect after but with only an average offset of 0.8 degrees Celsius
"The planet Earth recovers from the AMOC collapse in about 40 years when global warming continues at present-day rates, but near the eastern boundary of the North Atlantic (including the British Isles) it takes more than a century before temperature is back to normal," he said in a press release.
The scientist also discovered that the cooling effect produced by the collapse of the AMOC is also related to the heat flow between the atmosphere and ocean. This has been described by other experts as climate hiatus, which by a combination of various factors such as El Nino, volcanic eruptions and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
"When a similar cooling or reduced heating is caused by volcanic eruptions or decreasing greenhouse emissions the heat is reversed, from the ocean to the atmosphere," Drijfhout explained. "A similar reversal of energy flow is also visible at the top of the atmosphere."
"These very different fingerprints in energy flow between atmospheric radiative forcing and internal ocean circulation processes make it possible to attribute the cause of a climate hiatus period," he added.
Drijfhout's study was published in the academic journal Nature Scientific Reports on October 6.