It’s been 20 years since The Day After Tomorrow hit theaters and now scientists have warned that its terrifying plot could soon become a reality.
The film portrays a massive “superstorm” caused by the collapse of the Gulf Stream, which triggers catastrophic natural disasters and ushers in a new Ice Age on Earth.
In the blockbuster, characters are frozen under layers of snow, drowned in massive tsunamis and dramatically crushed under vehicles tossed by tornadoes.
But what would really happen here in the UK if the Gulf Stream collapsed?
Speaking to MailOnline, experts revealed how Britain would be plunged into a deep freeze, with winter conditions up to 15C colder than usual.
In the Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow (pictured), ocean currents around the world stop as a result of global warming, triggering a new ice age on Earth.
In the blockbuster, characters are frozen under layers of snow, drowned in massive tsunamis and dramatically crushed by vehicles tossed by tornadoes.
The Gulf Stream is part of a much larger system of currents, officially called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which scientists say could collapse as early as 2025.
Described as “the conveyor belt of the ocean,” the AMOC transports warm water near the ocean’s surface northward from the tropics to the Northern Hemisphere.
Here in the UK, its collapse would cause temperatures to drop, according to the professor David Thornalley, climate scientist at University College London.
“Unfortunately, people would die due to stronger winter storms and flooding, and many old and young people would be vulnerable to very cold winter temperatures,” he told MailOnline.
Jonathan Bamber, professor of Earth observation at the University of Bristol, agreed that if the AMOC were to collapse, the climate of northwest Europe would be “unrecognizable compared to what it is today.”
“It would be several degrees colder, so winters would be more typical of the Canadian Arctic,” he told MailOnline.
Rene van Westen, a climatologist and oceanographer at Utrecht University, predicts that summer temperatures in the UK will be between 5.4°F and 9°F (3°C and 5°C) lower than now.
AMOC Collapse: Would change climate around the world because it means the shutdown of one of the planet’s key climate and ocean forces. It would drop temperatures in northwestern Europe by 9 to 27 degrees (5 to 15 degrees Celsius) over decades.
Formally known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), it drives the Gulf Stream that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico to the northeastern US coast.
Meanwhile, winter temperatures could be 18°F to 27°F (10°C to 15°C) lower on average, although certain parts of Britain would be hardest hit.
For example, if the annual average surface temperature over London fell by 12.6°F (7°C), the temperature change would be greater (up to -21.6°F/-12°C) further north, as in Scotland, van Westen said.
However, according to Professor Thornalley, the effects in the UK would be minor compared to other regions.
In other parts of the world, a collapse of the AMOC would cause a change in the tropical precipitation belt, an area of precipitation located around the tropics.
“(This) would massively disrupt agriculture and water supply across huge areas of the planet,” Professor Thornalley said.
‘Many millions would be affected and suffer droughts, famines and floods in countries already struggling to address these problems.
“There would be huge numbers of climate refugees and geopolitical tensions would increase.”
According to the new study, the AMOC has recently shown signs of trending towards a crucial “tipping point”, which would soon be followed by a collapse.
It is not certain when exactly this turning point will occur, although it could be a matter of decades, rather than centuries as previously assumed.
“At the moment we cannot say anything about the distance to an abrupt collapse of AMOC (i.e. the day after tomorrow scenario),” van Westen told MailOnline.
“Our analysis only suggests that we are approaching the tipping point.”
If the AMOC collapses, people in the UK would die from stronger winter storms and flooding, and many old and young would be vulnerable to very cold winter temperatures. Pictured: A flooded street in Alconbury Weston in Cambridgeshire this month
A collapse of the AMOC would cause a change in the tropical rain belt, an area of rainfall located around the tropics.
In ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, a collapse occurs in the AMOC in a matter of days and the fictional climate immediately changes to extreme cold, so the characters are completely unprepared.
Fortunately, such a rapid transition won’t happen in real life, said Penny Holliday, head of marine physics and ocean circulation at the National Oceanography Center in Southampton.
“If the AMOC reaches a tipping point, it will happen for at least several decades,” he told MailOnline.
“However, a slowdown in the AMOC, whether rapid-acting or occurring over many decades, will lead to the generation of more extreme and violent weather systems that have the potential to cause significant deaths and damage.”