Sharknado Slams Los Angeles, Media Blames Global Warming

Unless you live in a cave — which, come to think of it, might not be a bad idea for hard-core global warming preppers — then you have heard about the pre-documentary that ran on the SyFy channel last night, “Sharknado.”

As the national media reported, the local media blamed this on climate change:

“Global warming IS the reason…”

So exclaims a local TV news reporter as a sharknado—a climate-change-abetted windstorm that sucks in an armada of malevolent sharks—approaches the heart of Los Angeles.

Based on my conversations with leading climate scientists, it seems premature at best for a pre-documentary to pre-attribute an individual sharknado to climate change. I examined the climate/tornado link in great detail here and concluded:

  1. When discussing extreme weather and climate, tornadoes should not be conflated with the other extreme weather events for which the connection is considerably more straightforward and better documented, including deluges, droughts, and heat waves.
  2. Just because the tornado-warming link is more tenuous doesn’t mean that the subject of global warming should be avoided entirely when talking about tornadoes.

Significantly, Harold Brooks, a senior scientist at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, told the media this week, “There are records of small fish being picked up by waterspouts, but sharks are pretty big and that makes it a lot harder.”

This suggests that if there ever is a sharknado, global warming probably played a role in creating convection and winds capable of entraining a significant number of sharks.

This footage underscores that point:

I should note that I myself didn’t actually see “Sharknado.” I am still too busy binge-watching that disturbing multi-part documentary, “Breaking Bad,” which if nothing else has convinced me I made a good choice in becoming a physicist, since chemists just don’t seem like very nice people.

Finally, while individual sharknados may or may not ultimately be attributable to global warming, you can’t deny the impact of a film that drew “over 5,000 tweets per minute” at one point, according to Fox News, which, unsurprisingly, omitted any discussion of global warming in its story. That’s why I’m inclined to agree with the recommendation of the LA Times:

So forget “An Uncomfortable Truth.” Environmental activists need to set up screenings of “Sharknado.” My fellow Americans, is this the legacy we want to leave our children? A shark on every rooftop?

Something for Bill McKibben and League of Conservation Voters and Organizing For Action to think about.

UPDATE: EPA has put out the following tweet:

30 Responses to Sharknado Slams Los Angeles, Media Blames Global Warming

  1. Where is Peter Benchley now that we need him?-

    Sharknado surfaced in my periscope over a month ago.

  2. Millicent says:

    Sharknados? Amusing but far fetched. Though I can imagine a certain silly blog posting the day after that it was just another sharknado. Sharknados do happen from time to time.

  3. Joan Savage says:

    I’m impressed with your self-discipline. You refrained from stating the obvious that the movie simultaneously provides literal and figurative examples of “jumping the shark.”

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    Nice Chemists and Contacts

    Joe, many chemists are actually quite nice (of course). In particular, here is one you might try to meet: Marinda Wu, who is the President of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

    I’ve met Dr. Wu, briefly, and also corresponded with her at one point regarding climate change. She is deeply concerned about climate change, and the ACS also has a great position statement regarding climate change. Indeed, based on a quick look at what their website is currently featuring, two of their five keynote/plenary speakers for the upcoming ACS annual convention have to do with solar energy.

    Also, as you probably know, the ACS is headquartered not far from you folks, on Sixteenth St. NW.

    As far as major professional societies go, if you want to include one or try to “partner” with one — formally or informally — regarding climate change and (perhaps) getting political leaders to take it much more seriously, the ACS would probably be a great bet, especially while Ms. Wu is president. That said, a previous president was also deeply concerned about climate change, and serious about it. (I met him at an energy and ethics conference long ago, and even then the ACS had a great position statement regarding climate change.) So, my experience with the ACS, limited as it has been, is that the ACS as an institution is appropriately concerned about climate change. But, perhaps, someone in the climate movement has to do a better job of trying to catalyze some cooperation and joint initiatives, or at least joint statements, among the serious professional organizations and scientific societies. Such efforts haven’t reached critical mass and, I guess, haven’t been emphatic and creative enough to garner the necessary attention.



  5. Robert in New Orleans says:

    What about “Piranhacane” a Cat 5 amalgam of teeth and terror! A flick that will scare both orthodontists and meteorologists. A cinematic masterpiece that will add some bite into storm surge models. Dentists and fanboys all over exclaim, “A true brush with bad oral hygiene”!

  6. Michael Powe says:

    Haha! I watched it last night. Hysterical. It’s old skool SciFi, not the “new and improved” SyFy.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You can, I hope, imagine my shagreen at seeing this production is, in fact real, and not some silly joke.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Perhaps there could be a role, choreographed by ‘artistes’, naturally, for that red-haired Holy Man, St.’Ginger’ Vitus.

  9. Chris says:

    Sharknado: We’re not even trying anymore.

  10. Jacob says:

    As SyFy goes this is par for the course. …smh.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    Without looking into this i wonder if this doesn’t even help to bring up the topic a bit more … i mean people who watch this kind of movie might even consider climate change now? LOL

  12. Vic says:

    Unfortunately, the precursors to deadly sharknado events are already being observed, decades ahead of schedule.

  13. Vic says:

    Documentaries such as “Sharknado” are in my opinion, alarmist.

  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I was disappointed to read that. Beforehand, I was sure that the sharks had finally decided to level up the score, ME

  15. Vic says:

    They haven’t given up the fight yet Merrelyn…

  16. Brian Smith says:

    This could really happen children, so hunker up close & pay attention..

    from around the web:

    “Hurricobras! Giant Piranha vs. Extreme Cold Front!”

    “The best part is that it is based on a true story and backed by hard science. :)”

    “why do both the girl actresses look like porn stars?”

    “This global warming is just getting out of hand. We need to do something as a society. How many Sharknadoes does there have to be before we act? ”

    “I like the part where there is sharks in a tornado.”

  17. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Nice example of the indirect approach! And those devilish scientists had to go and discover it, ME

  18. Mossy says:

    I couldn’t focus on what I was reading, after this: “chemists just don’t seem like very nice people.”

    I’m married to a chemist, and he’s one of the nicest people I know. Really, Joe, that was unnecessary, distracting, and not in the least jocular.

  19. Man, you’re really gummin’ this up!

  20. Paul magnus says:

    I am afraid tornados are on the increase due to warming. We can tell this because more intense tornados are happening more frequently over regions where they didn’t or wre very infrequent and smaller.

    Ck this unreal waterspout out that occurred recently…

  21. Let this film be a warning to any aliens who are planning to invade this planet! They’re flying right up fin alley — the grand fin alley, that is.

    (Anybody remember the 50’s B&W movie “THEM!” about the giant ants that crawled out of the L.A. Sewer system after a nuke test? You can still check out the trailer on YouTube if you need something to do this weekend.)

  22. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Is it really true that extreme laughter can dislodge your teeth? I may have to stop dropping in, ME

  23. Raul M. says:

    Thanks Joe,
    I enjoyed the revealing of subtle motivations of bad behavior in the mentioned tv show. Or is it the good behavior in really bad situations. The balance though seems tilted to the dark side.

  24. Usually I lean a tad toward humorlessness with such, er, “stuff” as “Sharknado.”

    But that trailer was so over the top that laughter was the only possible response–maybe partly because it’s such a great (and self-parodying) example of the Hollywood exploitation flick:

    “Really, it’s a deceptively tough feat that the makers of Sharknado pulled off: making a movie that’s shlockily and campily hilarious without seeming to try too hard to make something shlockily and campily hilarious.”

    Read more:

  25. Raul M. says:

    Mother Nature helps sharks to go on vacation and the need to feed?

  26. You have no choice. You’ll get caught up in an Aussiephoon and dumped on Venice Beach, CA, just in time for tech-tonic shift that will bring the ultimate ZOMBIE ATTACK: Republicans everywhere!

    No place to run to! No place to swim to! And you won’t be able to defend yourself because you will have laughed your teeth out. Now that bites!

  27. Timothy Hughbanks says:

    As a chemist who regularly reads your blog, Joe, I was shocked at the broad-brush stereotyping you’ve engaged in here. Everyone knows that it the organic chemists who are the nasty people. The rest of us are some the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.

  28. HA! I knew a physical chemist who thought he was a reagent — regular royalty. Eventually he caused such a reaction that they had to denature his PH — give him a Ph.D., that is.

    I could go on, but any more such base commentary would no doubt fail to pass the litmus of good taste.

  29. FrankD says:

    I thought the comment was a little acid, too.

    The boy wonder has just got me started on Breaking Bad Season One, and it seems to me it’s really chem teachers that are the problem:

    “You wouldn’t cook crystal meth in one of these. A volumetric flask is for general mixing and titration. You wouldn’t apply heat to a volumetric flask! That’s what a boiling flask is for. Did you learn nothing from my chemistry class?”

  30. Joe Romm says:

    As you watch more, you’ll see he is a serious chemist (with serious anger issues).