Mega Disasters Delivers Big-Time

“Mega Disasters: Glacier Meltdown”, which airs next week on the History Channel, is as bombastic as its name. Drums beat incessantly, the narrator speaks urgently, and pieces of glaciers fall dramatically into the water. Despite the Day After Tomorrow feel, “Glacier Meltdown” is quite informative. The producers bring in top experts from the US Geological Survey, Scripps Institute of Oceanography and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to tell the story of the glaciers.

They are indeed melting — and in places like Glacier National Park, the experts all concur that they’ll be gone in less than twenty years. In terms of the planet, it might just as well be the day after tomorrow.

Each week, “Mega Disasters” takes a different type of natural disaster, explains it scientifically, and then shows — using a computer simulation — what would happen should the disaster happen in an unusual context. Think earthquake in Chicago. The bulk of the “Glacier Meltdown” episode deals with the science and possible consequences of, well, glacier meltdowns — namely sea level rising, flooding and hurricanes. The most impressive part of the episode is the end, during which a hurricane is simulated in Chesapeake Bay, causing the water on the Potomac River to rise. Watch out, Washington DC!

Although the science is solid, I couldn’t help but see it as An Inconvenient Truth-lite. They even used some of the same footage and similar editing techniques. What “Glacier Meltdown” does, however, is use those ideas as a base from which to expand. Adding to these staples, it shows real cities being overtaken by water, analyzes the security implications of climate refugees, and discusses how cities like London are preparing for and combating a possible surge in sea level.

“Mega Disasters: Glacier Meltdown” strikes a good balance between entertaining and informative. I would have liked more solutions, but it was definitely successful in shedding light on one of the more imminent and disconcerting consequences of global warming.

Catch the show Sunday, November 11th and Monday November 12th on the History Channel.

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