Friday, February 28, 2014

A Magnitude 22.0 Earthquake?? A Star Wars Analogy

A couple of months ago (on Christmas actually, Merry Christmas Geologists!) the USGS, which releases customized Earthquake Notifications based on a users settings, released the news that a magnitude 22.0 earthquake just struck Montana (pictured below).

Now this was clearly a typo. It was meant to be 2.2, however, it does bring up an interesting conversation.(You can see the updated page HERE). What is a Magnitude 22 earthquake capable of?. Some of the comments on my Facebook post included (names abbreviated to protect their identities, if you want your name un-abbreviated, let me know):

Steve R: Looks like NBC now has the plot for the completion of it's earthquake trilogy. First it was "10.5"...then "10.5 Apocalypse"" Montana 22.0 the day the Earth went boom"...all staring Beau Bridges as Beau Bridges acting like an authority figure. 
Tyler S.: It wasn't flattened, there's a new 6 km high fault scarp. 
Thomas H.: Mag 22.0? Impressive! The Chicxulub Impact should have produced only a 10.8! 
Thomas H.: A 22.0 should have toppled every building on the planet, and probably caused mountains all over the world to collapse into piles of rubble. At least. 
Monica S.: Just as a reference, a Mw 10.0 would have a rupture length roughly equal to 1/4 of the planet's circumference. That is why a 10.0 could physically never happen. A 10.5 would rupture around the Earth 1.5 times. (If that movie 10.5 were real, Earth would have been obliterated). This is assuming a max rupture depth of 30 km. Mw 22 is 316,227,766,016 times more powerful than a 10.5.

To understand the audacity of a Magnitude 22.0 earthquake, lets give some earthquake basics. The measure of an earthquake's magnitude is essentially equivalent to the energy released during the initial rupture of the fault (I know they are not exactly the same, but it is close enough). Identification of earthquakes often start with a Magnitude 2.0 and go up to a Magnitude 10, with the largest recorded earthquake in history being a Magnitude 9.5.

The magnitude scale specifically measures the amplitude of the of the waves released from an earthquake (USGS). The Moment Magnitude scale, as it is called (replaced the Richter Scale), is a logarithmic scale. As it goes up one number the size of the amplitude increased by a factor of 10. To make it a little easier to understand you can compare this to the energy released. So, each whole number is 31.62232 times more powerful than the last one (i.e. a magnitude 3 is 31.622 times more powerful than a magnitude 2).

For energy comparisons, let us convert the amount of energy to Joules that is released from an earthquake. The largest earthquake ever recorded was the Chilean 9.5. That would have released 1.12 x 10^19 joules of energy. The Hiroshima nuclear bomb released 6.3 x 10^13 joules of energy by comparison (Wikipedia), quite a bit less than a 9.5 earthquake. Now a magnitude 22 earthquake is 12.5 degrees of magnitude larger than a 9.5. So calculating it would mean that it would be 31.662^12.5 more powerful than a 9.5 (5.7 x 10^18 times more powerful). This equates to 6.31 x 10^37 joules of energy (calculated here:

There is a limit to the size of an Earthquake based on the physical properties of rocks, but let us just ignore that for now.

The energy released in a Magnitude 22 earthquake is a lot of energy, but it is a little hard to grasp numbers that big. A magnitude 3.5 earthquake, which is on the limit of being felt by most people, releases 1.12 x 10^10 joules of energy. On the other hand it has been estimated that the power required by the Death Star in Star Wars (yes I'm going there) to destroy a Earth sized planet was 2.2 x 10^32 joules of energy (as mentioned HERE and elsewhere).

So the amount of energy required to destroy a planet (2.2 x 10^32 joules) is actually equal to an earthquake with a magnitude of 18.33, much smaller than the Magnitude 22 (6.31 x 10^37 joules) earthquake reported. Although the 2.2 x 10^32 joules is a bottom estimate, it is possible that the Death Star could create much more energy than that, just to make sure the planet was obliterated.

Therefore, I believe I have proof to indicate that the Earth was struck by a Death Star laser on Christmas, 2013. But somehow, we survived, and now they are trying to cover it up. Perhaps this was a test of the Death Star that the government supposedly wasn't building (The White House).

Some other numbers courtesy of Dinogami:
  1. Manicouagan impact = 1 x 10^21 joules
  2. K-T  (K-Pg) Chicxulub impact = 4.2 x 10^23 joules
  3. Sun puts out 3.8 x 10^26 joules (however that is all over, not concentrated)
  4. Impact of a Mars size body on the Earth = 4.5 x 10^31 joules 
It appears that our Magnitude 22 earthquake was one of the largest events to happen to the solar system since the last supernova.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Geological Podcasts - Listening to your Geology: Updated and Expanded

Previously I had made a post about all of the geological/paleontological podcasts that were available out in the interweb somewhere. Since that post (found here) several new podcasts have started up and I have been told about some other ones. Here is a complete list as I know it.

Several Paleo Podcasts have sprung up recently and are discussed at the Integrative Paleontologists.

----------------------Currently Active Podcasts*---------------------

Geology Related

In Our Time

Number of Episodes: unknown
Format: Weekly

Thoughts: This is a BBC podcast that discusses the history of ideas including varied topics such as philosphy, science, history, religion, and culture. They have a few geology specific podcasts, which you can find a list of in the comments on the previous podcast post (HERE). There is also a sub-podcast which focuses on just the scientific specific episodes. After listening to some of the episodes this feels like an NPR style podcast with the "talking heads" discussing various topics guided by the host. The episodes are only 45 minutes long, however they feel like they drag on a little long for me.

This Week in Science

Number of Episodes: 451
Format: Weekly

Thoughts: This podcast is about science in general but has a heavy dose of geology and paleontology related news. The show describes the latest news in science and then discusses them among it's hosts and what the possible implications could be. This is the type of podcast I feel should be made. It is entertaining by people who enjoy what they do. There are no monotonous voices droning on about this or that, AND it's informative.

The USGS CoreCast

Number of Episodes: 185
Format: I'm not really sure. They seem to come out randomly.

Thoughts: The CoreCast is a podcast/videocast where the episodes are short (4-10 minutes) but deal with a specific topic at the time. iTunes seems rather funny about it because when I look for older episodes they don't appear under my subscription feed but I can get some of them through the Store.

Paleontology Related

The PalaeoCast

Number of Episodes: 26
Format: Bimonthly

Thoughts: As time has gone on the hosts have switched around but the podcast has gotten progressively better. The set up is that the hosts interview different scientists each episode about various paleontological topics, with one show limited to one interview with a little bit of commentary. There does not seem to be a set pattern to the topics but I could be wrong about that. Not bad.

Past Time

Number of Episodes: 10 with some shorter episodes
Format: Monthly

Thoughts: This is a series of 20 minute podcasts with some 5 minute shorter episodes, released 1 to 2 per month. I had not listened to it before compiling this list but have added it to get a generalized feel for it. It is two guys often just discussing paleo topics, sometimes with interviews. It seems to be a bit heavily edited, which improves upon the flow of many "talk radio" style podcasts by adding music and sound effects into the mix. The shorter episodes make all of the production easy to bear since it ends before it gets old but the bits of humor make it highly enjoyable. Going through their old podcasts illustrates how much they have improved over the course of the year they have been on. So far, this seems likes something I could get into.

Palaeo After Dark

Number of Episodes: 25
Format: Bimonthly

Thoughts: This is a series of 1.5 to 2 hour long podcasts released every other week. As they state in the initial episode they are a more loosely structured discussion podcast with talking points across the field of paleontology, but perhaps focusing in on the PalaeoCast topics. I have only listened to a couple of podcasts but so far it seems interesting with a pretty lively bunch presenting the science. Try it out if you want a more laid back discussion of paleontological topics.

Dragon Tongues

Number of Episodes: 2
Format: Monthly

Thoughts: Currently the youngest running podcast listed with only 2 episodes, both about 13 minutes long. Not having heard of it before I started this compiling, I added it. The host is a student who wanted to give a different perspective on the Paleo Podcast scene. He wanted to give the stories behind the fossils. An interesting approach that seems to be working for him so far. The first two episodes may have been short but they were entertaining and educational.

---------------Defunct (Archived) Podcasts-------------------

KY GeoCast

Number of Episodes: 6
Last episode: 7/19/2012

Thoughts:  This is a podcast describing the geology of various sites across Kentucky. The episodes are short (3-10 minutes) are are very informative. The only problem is the older podcasts seem a bit dull, although the 2012 ones seem to have upped their game a bit and present something more entertaining to listen to.

The podClast

Number of Episodes: 17
Last episode: 2/27/2011

Thoughts: The podClast was a geological news podcast that discussed recent geological events discussing ramifications and how they could have happened. Only episodes 7, and 9-17 appear to be currently on iTunes.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Podcast

Number of Episodes: ~34
Last episode: 5/13/2010

Thoughts: Although listed as a podcast this is primarily available as a video podcast. Some of the earlier episodes though were released in both video and audio format. This is a highly produced podcast (at least the later episodes were) that is informative and rather entertaining. It focuses on marine biology and geology and is interesting for anyone interested in a short (3-10 minute) little science snippet.

------------------Misleading Podcasts**------------------

The Geologic Podcast

Number of Episodes: 292
Format: Weekly

Thoughts: Although it contains a title of "The Geologic Podcast" the latest episode I listened to (#292) had no geology in it and about 3-4 minutes of scientific content in general. It is more set up as a comedy show. As pointed out by Callan in the comments, the name comes from the shows host (George) who is into logic, hence Geo-Logic. I'm sure I am not the only one who has found this podcast by mistake.


*Currently active indicates a new podcast within the last calender year.
**Podcasts that at first glance one must assume they have to do with geology but upon further investigation are woefully mistaken.
- The number of podcasts are as of 2-21-2014.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is Google Making us Stupid?

I recently read an article entitled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", which emphasized a problem I recently have been having. I have noticed that my ability to focus on any one task for extended periods of time has waned and I find myself jumping between many different things during periods of supposed productivity. It is not that I am tired of what I am working on, it is just that I suddenly become jittery and unable to sit still. I find I MUST do something else, even if I have not gotten much done in the interim since this previous feeling had come over me. The article actually calls out that this affliction has happened to the author and several scholars that he knows. The article states that the reason for this is the way social media and the internet are set to deliver us information. The internet has reprogrammed our brains into thinking more in short bursts of information rather than being able to wade in depth into any particular subject.

This drives me nuts. It is also the reason I have been writing shorter and shorter blog posts. 1. because I don't like to read long blog posts so I figure others don't, but 2. because I don't have the time/concentration able to complete such tasks.

Is this a geology related post? Probably not, but I feel it is an academically related post. Academics all around are likely finding similar problems. They either don't have time to focus on one project for long periods of time or they do have time but they don't have the ability to concentrate continually on them. What once was a joy to sit and read a novel for an hour or two has become impossible without doing an internet break a few times. Usually when I get truly into what I am working on, am I able to concentrate for long periods of time, but as soon as that task is completed I feel the urge to check and see if I have any new emails or perhaps someone posted something interesting on Facebook (rarely this is the case, but I like to make sure).

Perhaps by calling out my problem I can figure out a way to fix it. I might be able to retrain my brain to relax and just let things be. Or maybe it is better this way. Maybe by doing multiple things at once, I am really getting more done in the long run.

This is the end of my productivity rant.

Monday, December 02, 2013

GeoTube - A Really Amazing Flash Flood Video

Here is a nice video of what the front of a flash flood looks like. This makes sense geologically speaking but I have never seen it in person, nor a video of it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Drunk on Geology - #2: Aftershock

What better alcohol to follow up last entry's Earthquake with than this liqueur - After Shock.

This is a product of the Jim Beam company with several varieties. The main one I am aware of (and the one pictured above) is the Hot and Cool Cinnamon version. It is a rather strong drink (80 Proof) with a strong cinnamon taste. Nice as a shooter and great sugar crystals when everything is all done.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Star Wars Intro to My Dissertation Defense

As some people may know I have been very busy working on my PhD Dissertation, causing me to rather neglect this blog. I did, however, pass my dissertation defense last Friday (November 22nd), so hopefully I will have a little more free time. The title of my defense was Behavioral evolutionary studies of graphoglyptid trace fossils through the geologic record.

When I give a presentation I like to have a little fun with it. So there were several little jokes and me-isms scattered throughout my defense. The most notable though would be my introductory slide (after the title slide) which played the following clip. I am attaching it here for those of my friends and colleagues who couldn't make it to my defense.

I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Geology of the National Parks in Pictures - Yellowstone

The next up on my tour of the National Parks in pictures:

View of my father back in 1997 and me in 2010 during an Old Faithful eruption.

Along the geyser hike looking back towards Old Faithful along Firehole River.

Rainbow with eruption. I'm pretty sure this is Old Faithful erupting but there was another nearby geyser erupting about the same time, so I am not positive.

Lovely algae cover on the water.

Some more hot springs.

My wife and recently born child doing the geyser hike near old faithful.

Stopped to take a geology geek picture of the Continental Divide. However, I think the water ended up going in the same direction, so I think the sign is a bit off.

Panorama of Yellowstone Lake with some hot springs in the front.

Another view of Yellowstone Lake with the wife in the middle.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Some formations near the Mammoth Hot Springs section of the park.

More formations near Mammoth Hot Springs.

 A buffalo was blocking traffic so I wanted to put together a slide show of him walking passed the car.

You can see the rest of the National Park Pictures at my website.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Drunk on Geology - Earthquake

This is an extension of my Geology in Pop Culture section extending into geologically related alcohol bottles. 

I have been wanting to do this series of posts for a while now but my recent discovery of a wine called "Earthquake" pushed me over the edge. I just had to buy it. I am someone who isn't a big drinker, however I do occasionally like a beer or a glass of wine, but I love liquor bottles and I am willing to spend some money to put cool bottles on my bar. (Lucky for me my wife is willing to try a majority of them.)

This wine bottle design is awesome. I love the seismograph that crosses the main image as "torn" look of the label. The best part about the Earthquake wine is the top of the bottle. They put the seismograph symbol on the top if the cork. Unfortunately that gets destroyed when you open the bottle. It would have been cool if the cork had it as well.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Geology of the National Parks in Pictures - J.D. Rockefeller Parkway

The next up on my tour of the National Parks in pictures:

This is a bizarre "National Park" in that there is nothing to it. They wanted a park to connect Yellowstone NP with Grand Teton NP, so they made this one. There is only one place to stop and that is this "visitor's center". The mosquitoes were so bad here I literally jumped out of the car, snapped some pictures, went inside the building for 5 second, then left. It doesn't even have its own webpage. They use part of the Grand Teton NP webpage.

You can see the rest of the National Park Pictures at my website.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Geology of the National Parks in Pictures - Grand Teton

The next up on my tour of the National Parks in pictures:

Us getting ready for our first real hike with the few month old.

During the hike up to one of the lakes.

A stream along that hike.

The lake at the end of the hike.

Panorama near the visitor's center.

Sunset from far away while driving back to the hotel.

A small hike alongside Jackson Lake.

Me in Jackson Lake

You can see the rest of the National Park Pictures at my website.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Geological Movie Review of The Day After Tomorrow - Questions

Geological Movie Review of The Day After Tomorrow - Overview

As the FINAL post for The Day After Tomorrow, here are some questions I designed to be asked in a class while reviewing the movie. You can also find a PDF of this information at my website (linked through the overview page). The Overview page is now complete with a link to the live website with all of the parts in one easy to find location.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Geological review questions based on the movie

            This is a list of geological questions based on the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Some of the questions can be answered while watching the movie, while others will need extra research on the internet. Some will be both. This is to help broaden your understanding of the geological world and how Hollywood can distort basic scientific principles to make a hit movie.

1. How big was the ice-shelf that broke off in the movie?

2. Has something on this magnitude actually occurred in the past?

3. What is wrong with the “North Atlantic Current” as it is depicted in the movie?

4. The storms are referred to as “hurricanes” in the movie. Are these hurricanes?

5. If they are not hurricanes, could storms form in the manner described in the movie?

6. What actually happens when you sink air from the upper atmosphere?

7. Is it plausible (not probable) that jet fuel can freeze in the center of a storm?

8. What kind of wave is shown flooding New York City?

9. Is it possible for this type of wave to occur?

10. Would it be possible to flood New York City to the extent shown?

11. How does a typical glacier form?

12. Are these glaciers that are forming in the movie?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Geological Movie Review of The Day After Tomorrow - Part 9

- Scientific Input -
1:57:24 - The scientific advisor for the movie is Michael Molitor, PhD. Now I understand that most scientists do not want their names on these types of movies, understandably so, because they may destroy any credibility the scientist may have. Also most decisions about the plotline is essentially the choice of the director with the scientist's ideas taking a back seat. But in reality who is Dr. Molitor and what is his specialty in? He is the founder of CarbonShift Ltd, an Australian company with a focus of helping other companies become more climate aware. He was formally a faculty member at UC San Diego and also a member of the faculty at the Climate Research Division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He also served at the external advisor to BP on their climate change strategy (UNSW). So all in all, it seems like he is a good person to have as an advisor to a climate change movie.
- Other Notes of Interest -
1:01:22 - Why is there a Russian ship in the middle of NYC? It's not like they were trying to help us or anything because they just sailed in and stopped. The US military maybe I could see, but a Russian ship? I do not see the point.
1:14:39 - They have a conversation in the movie about burning Friedrich Nietzsche. Now I can't see the book they are burning but the interesting thing is that one of Nietzshe's books entitled The Antichrist began partly with: "...Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me. Some are born posthumously." I doubt that the choice in author was coincidental for that scene.
1:55:02 - And who can leave out the memorable last line - "Have you ever seen the air so clear?" I mean what can be a better conclusion to a global destruction movie then a comment on how much better the air quality is after the destruction of most of the planet.
- Overview (or important thoughts to take home) -
     For a movie that plays fast and quick with science, they have an amazing number of small details correct like the date and location of the UN Conference on Global Warming and the ice sheet that broke off of Antarctica. But the main problem I have with this movie is that not only the rate at which things are happening (as stated in the movie, it's happening "too fast") but also some of the basic science points. The freezing of jet fuel, the temperature of the troposphere, the basics of how storms work. They played loose and fast with so much of it that things just started to fall apart. Also they piled the sciencey stuff to the front half of the movie, cramming as much as they could in so that the actioney stuff could dominate the second half of the movie, making for a dense scientific movie with more work than it was worth trying to puzzle out. So, in general, I would say that even though they got some details right, they gave science a good pounding in order to get their "climate change bad" agenda across. Now I'm all for fixing this climate change thing we have going on here, but I like facts more than sensationalism to get people to do it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Geological Movie Review of The Day After Tomorrow - Part 8

- Glacier Formation -
- Snow Covered World -
Snow Covered Earth1:03:06 - Beginning with the second half of the movie, they start to describe what is going to happen to the Earth following the cessation of the storm activity. They mention that ice and snow will cover "the entire Northern Hemisphere" (apparently the Southern Hemisphere doesn't get cold?). This will lead into what is known as a perpetual cycle of cooling. The white snow reflects the sun, preventing warming, causing the Earth to cool even more. They also state that the Earth's temperature will be close to that of the last ice age, which is about 8°C cooler than it is today ( Now keep in mind this is the average global temperature, not any one particular locality. The movie is stating that this one storm is going to drop the entire global temperature 11 times lower than the entire rise in temperature the planet has seen in the last century due to human activity (NASA). That is terribly extreme, but it seems to fall in line with the extremeness of the entire movie.
Alpine Glacier
- Frozen Oceans -
1:09:02 - The snow covered world represented in the image above left (as seen in the movie) was supposed to represent snow and ice fall (I assume). But with their freezing of the oceans they tread dangerously close to "glaciers". Looking at the map they presented (again, pictured above left), they show a world much as it is represented during the ice age, with white covering the landmasses. This white in the ice ages was representative of glaciers, a thing far different than those frozen blocks of water presented in the movie. Now they never call them glaciers but there is no doubt that this is what they are meant to be. Typical glaciers form in cold weather up in the northern latitudes or higher altitudes when the snow fall is greater than the snow melt during the summer, hence more snow accumulates than can melt. This forms into a thick sheet of snow that eventually compresses into mostly ice. The continued snow fall at the beginning of a glacier pushes the front of the ice forward at a slow but steady rate, often millimeters to meters per year (meters on the really fast end). Glaciers can form up to and beyond a mile thick and can cover great distances in the form of continental glaciers, like in Antarctica and Greenland. These are different from alpine glaciers, which only form near the peaks of mountains where the weather is cold enough most of the year.
Statue of Liberty Snow      To form the "glaciers" in the movie, they seem to take the 'freeze the ocean' approach as illustrated in NYC. Typical salt water freezes at -1.9°C, but in the process it excludes all of the salt (NOAA). This renders the remaining water saltier (brine), lowering the freezing point even lower. That along with the shear size of the ocean makes freezing ocean water nearly impossible. Even in the Arctic, subice water is still liquid. The salt in the water also reduces the rate at which sea water freezes (NASA). During this time in the movie and shortly after, it shows people moving around outside trying to reach warmer climates. This indicates that even before the 'big freeze' occurs in the movie the temperatures are cold enough to freeze salt water to a point that people could walk on it. And once again we tread into ridiculous territory where it is clearly impossible to do what is done in the movie, but they go right on ahead and do it anyway.
1:21:06 - Working his way up the eastern seaboard, Jack finds himself walking on top of a four storey mall, which has completely frozen over. I assume the method of "glacier" formation was the same in this instance as it was in NYC. And we have the same problems as before, although at least it was tempered in the southern region to only being ~50 feet thick.
1:47:11 - The "glacier" shown at the end of the movie covered the Statue of Liberty with a thickness of about 200 feet with the water frozen out into the Atlantic for the foreseeable distance. Again, ridiculous, but it follows the theme of the movie.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Geological Movie Review of The Day After Tomorrow - Part 7

Geological Movie Review of The Day After Tomorrow - Overview

- Super Flooding -
- Starting off Slow -
NYC Flooding0:43:20 - As the movie moves along they continue to get more and more unrealistic. This includes the massive flooding along, apparently, everywhere in the northern hemisphere, including coastal lands from Nova Scotia to Florida. These are the only confirmed areas of flooding, but since they are flooding in such a variety of areas you can assume that most coastal areas of North America are affected as well.
   The flooding in the movie started with a "slow" rise in water seen through the sewer grates below some of the cars. Flooding in New York City is not unheard of. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 showed that NYC could easily be flooded to some extent. However, the movie at this point centers around the New York Public Library which is located at the corner of W 42nd St and 5th Ave. The elevation at this point is ~57 ft (FEMA) which is not super high (obviously) but it is significantly higher than most of the regions adjacent to the water. The library is located approximately equal distance from the East River and the Hudson River, where most of the flooding would come from. It is not even in the Category 4 Hurricane Flood Advisory (as pictured to the left) (
     The flooding in NYC is because the city is prone to storm surges, which is where the wind pushes the water against the shore. It is not an increase in the actual water level from normal, just an increase in the local water level. If it is high tide, like it was for Hurricane Sandy, then the water has a higher starting point from which the storm surge can flood from. But assuming a "normal" storm, or even a large hurricane category 4 storm, the water level would not even be close to reaching the library as can be seen on the map to the right (light blue is category 4 storm surge).
- Nova Scotia Waves -
0:43:53 - Following the flooding in NYC, flooding is mentioned in Nova Scotia. Since it is along the eastern shore of North America, we can assume that the flooding in Nova Scotia and NYC are tied to the same storm surge event. Statue of LibertyIn Nova Scotia, it was mentioned that the "ocean rose by 25 feet in a matter of seconds". Assuming that this is broadcast media sensationalism, let us take it as a large wave that over took the island. If we look at wave heights for Hurricane Sandy, it was recorded that they reached a record 32.5 feet before hitting land (Climate Central). Given waves of this height for a Category 1 hurricane, it is easy to believe that Nova Scotia could be inundated by waves of 25 feet with a far larger storm.
- Tsunami? -
0:48:06 - We are now entering into what is getting to be really unbelievable. We are shown what could only be considered a ~240 foot tsunami cresting the Statue of Liberty. A tsunami is generated from something like an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, both of which can displace large quantities of water or land (by moving land you move the water on top of it). Nothing in the movie has indicated any such event as happening. A storm surge is strong at times but there is definitely not enough wind power to generate such a strong wave. That and the wind power would need to be ramped up suddenly causing such a tsunami to form, otherwise it would just be a gradual storm surge increase. Also, immediately following a normal tsunami, the water rapidly retreats due to the imbalance that is caused with the water being at a higher elevation then what gravity will allow it to be, so most of the water will return to the sea. This is contrary to the movie where not only does the water not retreat, it rises. Which, is indicative of a storm surge. In a storm surge, the water will remain on land as long as the wind providing the force to keep it there remains strong. On a side note, the water level did decrease from the ~240 feet at the Statue of Liberty to ~100 feet when it hit the library.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Geological Movie Review of The Day After Tomorrow - Part 6

- Flash Freezing -
- Frozen Mammoth -
AMNH Mammoth0:38:10 - Our first introduction into flash freezing comes from the mammoth in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), which was said to be "perfectly preserved in the Siberian tundra with food still in its mouth and stomach, indicating that it froze instantly which grazing". First off, as far as I am aware there are no preserved mammoths in the AMNH. They do have at least one skeleton though (pictured right). From the looks of it, in the movie they were in one of the Mammal Halls, which displays modern mammals that have been stuffed and posed among a backdrop of their environment. So obviously the movie made up some more information. Moving on.
     Besides this, is it possible to 'flash freeze' a mammoth. There are a few examples of mammoths being frozen and preserved to the present. The best preserved example is a baby mammoth which fell into a river and was frozen there (Guardian). There are other animals that have been frozen as well including a cave man with food in his intestines (eScienceNews) and a bison (Atlas Obscura). None of these have evidence of being 'flash frozen' though. Should this frozen mammoth be real, one possible explanation was that the animal fell within a crack in the glacier, (a crevasse if you will) which are usually in abundance and can be tremendous in depth, and the animal was either killed from the fall or injured to the point that death was imminent. After that, the cold weather preserved the remains of the animal intact, hence no flash freezing necessary. And the death is quick enough where food is preserved in the gut. I doubt there has been any remains of a mammoth, or any other prehistoric beast, found frozen with food still in it's mouth. That borders on ridiculous. So this is partially possible, however their analysis of the facts led to bad conclusions.
- Helicopter Popsicle -
0:39:36 - As the storms intensify, we find ourselves in the midst of a flash freezing craze focused on some helicopters. The reason that is given for the helicopters going down was that the fuel in their lines froze. The temperature quoted in the movie as being able to freeze jet fuel was -150°F (-101°C). For military purposes, the jet fuel used in helicopters is either JP-5 or JP-8 (ExxonMobil). JP-5 has a freezing point of -50.8°F (-46°C) and JP-8 has a freezing point of - 52.6°F(-47°C). Jet fuel can, however, even be used beyond this temperature, where the fuel is still able to flow. The limit of this flow temperature is about 6°C below that of the freezing point ( So, although the freezing point of jet fuel is much warmer than what they were stating (why make something like that up?), it stands to reason that IF (and that's a big if) the temperature were to drop to -150°F the fuel in the helicopter would likely freeze almost instantly. I don't know if that would take the helicopter down, but at least the fuel lines would be frozen.
- Frozen Air -
0:52:07 - Our main question with the freezing is, how fast can the temperature drop within the center of a storm? It appears that in the movie, the extreme cooling is due to the storm "pulling super-cooled air down from the upper troposphere". One of the main problems with this is that as air descends, it warms up (as stated in the movie). So descending air shouldn't be able to be that cold. And not only that but it is happening in three different storms at the same time. Alright, assuming that air can be brought down from the upper troposphere without warming up because it descends so rapidly (a physical impossibility based on the law of thermodynamics, but moving on), what is the temperature of the air up there? The temperature in the upper troposphere can get down to -50°C (Soich and Rappenglueck, 2013), which is barely above the freezing point of jet fuel as mentioned above but nowhere near the super freezing temperatures that are mentioned as happening in the movie. So could cold air be brought down from the upper troposphere, possibly. Could it be super cold, possibly. Would it be the super freezing -101°C as mentioned in the movie, no way.
1:36:32 - The comment is made in the movie that the temperature is dropping in the eye of the storm at 10°C per second. I like someone's comment on another page (ClimateSight) which stated that in under a minute the air would reach absolute zero. Absolute zero is the temperature where all movement stops (-273.15°C). Let us assume that we are dealing with -10°C as a starting temperature, since people were traveling outside. A bit high maybe but whatever. Starting at -10°C, it would take 27 seconds to reach absolute zero. That is beyond ridiculous, I don't even know what to say about it.