Tree-lined streets become rivers in Charleston, South Carolina, the future. Street lights hang just a few feet from the water surface, while a rooftop meteorologist explains that this is the view we could see in 2100 if climate change continues at its current pace.
The scene is from The Weather Channel's mixed-reality segment that blends the tide of tomorrow with today's melting glaciers and sea-level rise. It marks a slight departure from its ongoing campaign to place its meteorologists in the midst of virtual but hyperrealistic extreme weather events.
Some of them have touched on climate change and its role in worsening forest fires that burn the West Coast every year, or the thinning ice covering the surface of lakes. However, this is the first to fully focus on the effects of climate change, as Matthew Sitkowski Executive Weather Producer at The Weather Channel. "This time, we decided to really tackle climate change and make it a star," he says.
To create these segments, The Weather Channel uses a popular video game development platform, the Unreal Engine, to adjust the graphics in real time. With the camera tracking technology, the production team brings the meteorologist in scene. The result is a vibrant, nearly realistic movie scene that captures the viewer for the same reasons as video games, says Edward Maibach, director of the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, who was not involved in the production we incorporate our visual and audio senses ̵
In this particular segment, the meteorologist, after predicting Charleston and its future floods, visits the water-filled Norfolk in Virginia today. In Norfolk, since 1927, sea levels have risen by 1.4 feet as global temperatures rise. "Only a steady breeze on land and a flood can lead to flooded streets and houses," says the meteorologist in the clip.
The video links the rising seas in Norfolk with the glaciers that are melting in the Arctic and warming at an alarming rate. Warming global temperatures can cause sea levels to rise in various ways: warm water expands and thawing of land ice penetrates the ocean, increasing the water level. As the meteorologist explains, 25 miles of the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland have disappeared since 1851, a massive ice wall behind it. "Now it happens. The temperatures are rising. The ice melts and the sea level rises, "says the meteorologist. "And it will get worse in our lives."
This is the message that Sitkowski wanted the video to communicate. "What's happening in the Arctic is important to you," he says. The Weather Channel team worked on climate change during the live program. "People come to us to get the predictions, especially when there's an extreme extreme weather event. However, these are all being changed very slowly and gradually by climate change, "he says. Sitkowski shows what things could look like in the future and how they have changed over time. She hopes she will leave this message to people: "This is something serious. That's something we have to talk about. "