The Twitterverse lit up with largely critical comment over the weekend after Academy award winner Leonardo di Caprio cited an Alberta chinook as the reason his crew had to search to the ends of the earth for suitably cold conditions to film scenes from The Revenant. And much of the pushback came from Canadian climate hawks.
Di Caprio seized the moment after receiving the Oscar for best actor to talk about climate change as “the most urgent threat facing our entire species.” But his reference to unseasonably warm conditions reflected his limited understanding of the chinook—a frequent and well-known weather phenomenon that occurs when warm air is forced downward at the point where mountains meet prairies. “The effect, which is not a direct effect of climate change, is particularly pronounced in southern Alberta and frequently brings sudden bouts of summer-like conditions in the dead of winter,” CBC explains.
“He describes it, and it’s passing into lore, as this freak never-seen phenomenon. It wasn’t. It was a garden-variety chinook,” tweeted Alberta author Chris Turner. “Of course. Climate change is real, pervasive, potentially catastrophic. But if the science matters, it matters ALL the time.” And “if you’re wondering how many times, as an Alberta-based climate hawk, I’ll have to answer for di Caprio’s ignorance? Answer is ALL THE TIME.”
“Yes, climate change is real. No, @LeoDiCaprio is not a good spokesperson for it,” tweeted @ChaseEmDown. “Yes, winters are getting warmer. But conflating chinooks & climate change kills credibility,” agreed @alisonborealis.
Environment Ontario got into the act, tweeting about “that awkward moment when you have to explain a chinook to Leo…(His climate change activism is still great, though!)”
King of Mediocrity acknowledged that di Caprio “is a cool dude, but he seriously needs to learn what chinook winds are. It’ll save him from any future humiliation.”
“A shame because it’s so good he’s championing it. But he really should have asked a Calgarian what a chinook was,” added @SilverIodide.
Toronto Star climate writer Tyler Hamilton tweeted a photo of a thermometer showing the outdoor temperature at 16°C in Toronto February 28, concluding that the “speech was welcome even if he mischaracterized his Alberta chinook experience.”
And @Prairie_Kat called for calm, commenting that “we don’t have to pick one or the other, as they’re likely related. Chinooks are normal, nonstop chinook-like weather is not.”