An Astonishing Documentary Film About Wildfires, Melting Glaciers, Tornadoes and How These Powerful Forces Are Colliding
Extreme Weather Opens in IMAX®, Giant Screen, and Digital Cinemas in North America beginning Today
This fall, National Geographic presents Extreme Weather, an immersive new giant-screen film experience that brings audiences face to face with Mother Nature at her most dangerous. Wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis — hardly a week passes without a natural catastrophe making the nightly news. Extreme Weather goes behind the headlines to explore the rapid changes to Earth’s oceans, atmosphere and land and their connection to these increasingly devastating events.
Traveling to Alaska’s melting glaciers, filmmakers capture the action as massive chunks of ice shear off into the frigid water with explosive force. In the Midwest, cameras roll as storm chasers risk their lives to capture data as deadly tornadoes race toward them. And in drought-ravaged California, filmmakers embed themselves with courageous first responders fighting to contain raging wildfires.
Featuring insights from experts including National Geographic Emerging Explorer Dr. Erin Pettit and Oklahoma tornado researcher Justin Walker, Extreme Weather dramatically demonstrates how climate change is rapidly affecting our land, oceans and atmosphere to produce natural disasters as ruinous as they are spectacular. The film unveils the surprising linkages between these three areas, demonstrating how a small change in one place can have large effects elsewhere.
Extreme Weather features a first-hand examination of tidewater glaciers in southern Alaska, where Pettit bears witness to massive iceberg shards shearing into warming seawater. In Oklahoma, the film captures astonishing footage of powerful tornadoes as Walker and his team collect data with their “Tornado pods.” And in the drought-ravaged American West, camera crews accompany firefighters to document the ferocity of California wildfires, where forests have become so dry the slightest spark can ignite out-of-control flames.
Interwoven with these stunning images are startling facts about the rapid changes our planet is undergoing. Richly informative and visually astonishing, Extreme Weather underscores how seemingly random changes impact the planet’s intricately interconnected ecosystem.
Directed and filmed by Sean Casey (“Storm Chasers”, “Tornado Alley”, “Forces of Nature”), EXTREME WEATHER showcases breathtaking cinematography reflecting Casey’s life-long immersion in the world of giant-screen nature documentaries. “I’ve always had a fascination with weather,” says Casey. “We wanted to go into the field and capture incredible imagery. The 150-foot flames, the 400-foot wall of ice falling, the tornadoes — there’s a majesty to all of that. The way I see it, EXTREME WEATHER lives at the crossroads of beauty and destruction.” The film is produced by Jen Casey.
“EXTREME WEATHER offers viewers an up-close look at some of the most astonishing and potentially deadly natural phenomena, while showing how they are interconnected and changing our world in dramatic ways,” says Antonietta Monteleone, vice president of film distribution for National Geographic Cinema Ventures. “It’s exactly the type of film giant-screen cinema was made for.”
As a boy growing up in southern California, Extreme Weather director Sean Casey remembers tagging along on expeditions with his filmmaker father George Casey. “For 30 years, my dad was an IMAX filmmaker,” Casey recalls. “At an early age, I’d go on film shoots with him, so that kind of life got imprinted on me as the family trade: ‘This is how you make a living. You travel to places with a very large camera and film visually stunning natural phenomena.’”
After receiving a film degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Casey served as a time-lapse photographer on the 1999 large-format documentary Amazing Journeys and as cinematographer on Natural Disasters: Forces of Nature, both directed by his father. “For Forces of Nature, I filmed earthquakes and volcanoes,” he says. “Then I volunteered to go storm chasing. I fell in love with tornadoes.” Casey and his high-tech approach to monitoring and filming tornadoes were central to the Discovery Channel’s reality series “Storm Chasers.”
After stepping into the director’s role for Tornado Alley in 2011, Casey was anxious to include an even broader array of weather-related phenomena in his next large-format production. “I’ve always had a fascination with weather,” he says. “We wanted to go into the field and capture some incredible imagery. The 150-foot flames, the 400-foot wall of ice falling, the tornadoes — there’s a majesty to all of that. The way I see it, Extreme Weather lives at this crossroads of beauty and destruction.”
That destruction has been exacerbated in recent years by the fact that our planet is getting warmer at an alarming rate. In the past decade alone, 150 million people have lost their homes to fires, storms, flooding and other weather-related catastrophes. And while sea level rose only eight inches in the 20th century, it is projected to rise three feet this century, which could spell disaster for the one billion people who live in 11 of the world’s largest cities located in coastal regions.
Glaciers on Ice
The rising seas are caused by the rapid melting of billions of tons of glacial ice in places like Alaska, Greenland and Antarctica, where an ice shelf the size of Rhode Island collapsed in two weeks. To document this literal meltdown, Casey and his small crew set up camp across the river from Dawes Glacier in the Endicott Arm Fjord of southern Alaska. “I worked on a film called Alaska: Spirit of the Wild in 2004 and in that scenario, there was a river between us and the glacier creating a fixed distance,” Casey recalls. “For Extreme Weather, our goal was to get as close to the glacier as possible.”
Of course Casey couldn’t predict exactly when pieces of the glacier would shear off. “During our first expedition, in the spring of 2015, there was a lot of waiting around,” says Casey. “We beachcamped a mile away from the glacier and hit a rough patch of rain. We were wet, miserable and cold for a week.” The crew put in 14-hour days in front of the glacier, dealing with the potentially deadly currents, winds and icebergs it generated. “It was this constant process of re-positioning ourselves and navigating how close we could get to the glacier and still feel comfortable. We realized there’s a real fine line between being a safe distance and being in what we called the kill zone.” Continue reading