Movie ‘Frozen’ inspires atmospheric modeling classwork

November 23, 2019 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Disney animated musical “Frozen” provided an assignment for a Louisiana State University class in modeling the marine atmosphere.

The question: If the whole sea froze while the air temperature was well above freezing, could all that ice create wintry weather, as it did in the movie after Princess Elsa runs across the ocean and freezes it? The answer was that, under some circumstances, such a change could be possible.

Assistant Professor Paul Miller of the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences said he got the assignment idea after watching “Frozen” with his daughter.


“I have a 4-year-old daughter, so I’ve watched ‘Frozen’ like a hundred times. The hundred-and-first time I thought, ‘Oh, this is something we could do for class,’” he said in an interview.

The movie’s producers had said Norway had partly inspired the landscape. Because the costumes suggested the 1840s and flowers and short-sleeved costumes indicated spring, Miller set the simulations in Norway’s spring, using climate data from 1851 — the earliest available.

Each of the five ran a 30-day simulation with the change to sea ice on a different date assigned by Miller.

“Norway is far enough poleward that without the nearby relatively warm ocean temperatures the climate would be much cooler even during late spring,” Miller said in an LSU news release. “I was kind of surprised that the change was that dramatic in the simulation that I ran.”

The most extreme, he said, was a drop from 32 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to -9.4 Celsius). However, he noted, the change wasn’t immediate, as it was in the movie, but took about four days after the simulation switched from open ocean to sea ice.

The average change was from 41 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 0 degrees centigrade), he said.

Miller says the assignment took two lab sessions of nine scheduled this semester.

The movie tie-in “makes the homework and assignments more engaging. It’s something they can relate to that’s fun to tell their friends and parents about so they retain the information better,” Miller said.