BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new study analyzed what would happen if an asteroid struck Earth. More precisely, they looked at which effects of such a collision would cause the largest number of victims. The results showed that shock waves and powerful winds are the most dangerous for the human population.
In the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letter, looked at seven phenomena which are thought to occur after an asteroid collision. These phenomena include pressure shock waves, extreme heat, violent winds, earthquakes, seismic cratering, tsunamis, and flying debris. Then, they ranked all of them from the most to the least dangerous.
Shock waves and wind blasts could cause most casualties
They discovered that extreme wind and shock waves are the most likely to cause the highest number of victims. In all the scenarios designed by the scientists, these two calamities caused more than 60 percent of the casualties.
Shock waves are caused by sudden changes in the atmospheric pressure. The have the potential to rupture the internal organs, while extreme gushes of wind can destroy buildings, forests, and fly people away.
Clemens Rumpf, the lead author of the study and a senior assistant at the University of Southampton, UK, said that their study was the first one to look at the effects of all seven phenomena which occur during asteroid collisions. Also, it is the first to estimate an approximate number of casualties caused by each individual event.
Learning how to protect ourselves from the terrible effects of asteroid collision
Besides making estimates regarding the victims, the study identifies the most dominant effects, and guides the rescue groups by finding the necessary resources in the case of each calamity. Thus, in the case of an impact with an asteroid, the study would help in reducing the number of victims and the extent of the damage.
However, Earth is pretty unlikely to suffer a severe asteroid impact. Such cosmic objects measuring around 60 meters in width strike Earth once every 1500 years, but such small asteroids are not fatal. The risk of getting hit by a bigger asteroid is much smaller, such as once every 100,000 years.
Even though we are not likely to be hit by a massive asteroid too soon, researchers emphasize the fact that we should be prepared. Such a powerful impact could have terrible consequences, and a huge part of the Earth’s population would not survive if we do not take all the necessary measures of protection.
Image Source: JPL – NASA