As of last week, most Americans may associate the word “Sharknado” with a silly, so-bad-it’s-good television movie.
Not so fast, say scientists who warn that real-life “sharknadoes” as depicted in the movie have already been reported – a few times, in fact.
The movie “Sharknado,” which ran with the tagline “Enough said!”, is about tornadoes that dump shark-infested waters over Los Angeles, where the sharks begin attacking people. The SyFy channel movie starred B-list actors Tara Reid, John Heard and Ian Ziering.
The movie has been mocked by both critics and viewers for its plot, mediocre acting and cheap special effects. And yet Yoshinobu Iha, a climatologist with the University of San Diego’s Atmospheric Sciences Institute, says the movie should be viewed “almost as a documentary” for showcasing a potential threat.
“For the past few years, we’ve been studying phenomena in the Pacific Ocean in which waterspouts, which are like tornadoes over the ocean, have become strong and intense enough to scoop up various sea life, including sharks. The waterspouts have then moved toward nearby islands and in a few cases have run aground, dumping the sharks and fish on land.
“The movie wasn’t that far off in showing what might happen if one of these waterspouts were to get strong enough and move fast enough to run into a major city like Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego.”
Iha said the shark-carrying waterspouts so far have only been recorded in the South Pacific near the island nations and territories east and north of Australia and New Zealand.
“In one case, the waterspout ran aground on Christmas Island near Australia, and three fishermen were attacked by sharks that were dumped on them,” he said. “I’ve met people in Fiji, Nauru and Kiribati who have reported seeing these shark waterspouts. They were scared beyond imagine.
“We’ve also noticed that these super-strong shark-carrying waterspouts are forming further and further west. I would predict that people in Hawaii could start seeing them within a few years.”
Normally, waterspouts are not strong enough to even pick up large fish, let alone sharks, which might weigh anywhere from 200 to 2,500 pounds, depending on the species. Although Iha and his team are not certain on what causes the super-strong waterspouts, he notes that they are becoming more numerous. He and his team are hoping to present their scientific findings to Congress soon in order to raise public awareness about the phenomena.
The threat of real-life “sharknadoes” is no surprise to the movie’s producer, Billy Walsh, who insisted that he and the movie’s screenwriters had thoroughly researched the story and were attempting to get people’s attention.
“I don’t know why people made fun of this movie,” he said. “We are trying to warn people in an entertaining way. I think it’s time all of the critics issued an apology.”