If Hurricane Harvey hits Toronto will it be "The Day After Tomorrow" Stormageddon, Rainpocalypse? Sensational pseudo-science in media should be viewed with caution.

hurricane harvey torontoThe comment below is awaiting moderation on The Weather Network. It is in response to the article "Visualizing what Harvey's impacts would look like in Canada".


Toronto overland flooding NewtonbrookThe Weather Network broadcasts a segment on the movie The Day After Tomorrow calling it a silly, non-scientific tale and discounting the sensational stormageddons portrayed in the movie. This article is just similar sensationalization, and I caution even calling it 'pseudo-science' because there are too many gaps in basic hydraulics and hydrology to make the weather-flood math even worth dissecting. A couple cool graphics, but no science in the article. An alternative? Yes, it is possible to analyze the impact of storms on cities using urban hydrology and hydraulics to estimate where water could spread - I have assessed Toronto for the 100-year storm spread and multiples of that spread that could represent how a mega-storm could affect the city, street by street: 
Toronto urban flooding overland flow May 2000 August 2005 July 2013 flood report
Toronto urban flooding Beaches East York Leaside
The interactive map at the link above can be used to explore your street's risk in Toronto (realistic storms, not sensational 'stormageddons'. I have done similar analysis for southern Ontario that uses complete elevation models of Ontario, considers rainfall statistics, applies hydrologic runoff principles and hydraulic flow principles: 


A few 2D maps on hot spots and 3D renderings are attached. 

The Weather Network promotes Science Behind the Weather all the time but does not get into much depth on hydrology and hydraulics and other scientific disciplines that come into play between weather and flooding. 


And a follow-up comment:

Just checking the "math" on Toronto Hurricane Harvey flooding simulation. I give it an "A" in grade 9 Algebra - yes, 56.8 cubic kilometres of water will have a height of 90 metres over Toronto's 630 square kilometers - kudos for being able to divide a volume by an area to get a depth - that would just about immerse the 130 metre tall Royal York Hotel as shown. But a D minus in Geography - grade 9 kids learn about the water cycle and that rain runoff water flows off land - it does not stack up like jello unsupported from its sides like the Hurricane Harvey Toronto flood math suggests. A F in physics because runoff water is viscous and flows instead of ponding up vertically. E minus in hydrology for anyone with an engineering college technologist certificate - again, water accumulates over and runs off through watersheds not defined by municipal boundaries - the rainfall volume should actually be bigger than 56.8 cu.km because the Toronto watersheds extend beyond the political boundaries. D minus for hydraulics as when it rains runoff flows away based on the hydraulics and at times the storage routing of the urban drainage and river and lake systems. This means runoff does not stack vertically, some infiltrates into the ground for small storms, and most flows away during the storm with the flood depth determined by the hydraulics at the time of peak outflow. All 2nd year civil engineers know from basic hydrology courses that axiom. But in the Hurricane Harvey simulation it is not even a remote consideration, nor is basic watershed science and hydrologic cycle considerations. I really do encourage The Weather Network to focus on the science behind flooding and it requires a more broad perspective on scientific disciplines beyond meteorology. 


Below is a critique of the science of The Day After Tomorrow on Wikipedia. The Hurricane Harvey Toronto flooding simulation is also an impossible joke as well - a cheap thrill ride for the weak minded: 

Some scientists criticized the film's scientific aspects. Paleoclimatologist and professor of earth and planetary science at Harvard University Daniel P. Schrag said, "On the one hand, I'm glad that there's a big-budget movie about something as critical as climate change. On the other, I'm concerned that people will see these over-the-top effects and think the whole thing is a joke ... We are indeed experimenting with the Earth in a way that hasn't been done for millions of years. But you're not going to see another ice age – at least not like that." J. Marshall Shepherd, a research meteorologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, expressed a similar sentiment: "I'm heartened that there's a movie addressing real climate issues. But as for the science of the movie, I'd give it a D minus or an F. And I'd be concerned if the movie was made to advance a political agenda." According to University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver, "It's The Towering Inferno of climate science movies, but I'm not losing any sleep over a new ice age, because it's impossible."

Patrick J. Michaels, a former research professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia who rejects the scientific consensus on global warming, called the film "propaganda" in a USA Today editorial: "As a scientist, I bristle when lies dressed up as 'science' are used to influence political discourse."College instructor and retired NASA Office of Inspector General senior special agent Joseph Gutheinz called The Day After Tomorrow "a cheap thrill ride, which many weak-minded people will jump on and stay on for the rest of their lives" in a Space Daily editorial.

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