If Asteroid Strikes, It Won’t Be Impact That Kills

NASA's asteroid hunters explain the effects of a major strike on Earth.

July 5, 2017 5:00 am

In the unlikely event that a large asteroid smashes into Earth, you probably won’t be engulfed in a ball of flames or drowned in a massive tsunami.

But that’s the only good news.

It’s more like the wind — and the resulting shockwave of the explosion— that will cause most humans’ demises, according to a recently published analysis in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and flagged by Vox.

“Effects such as cratering, seismic shaking and ejecta deposition (i.e., ejected debris) provide only a minor contribution to overall loss,” the study authors wrote.

The effects of gusting wind and surging temperatures would be joined by pressure waves, New Scientist points out, which could rupture organs.

But a cataclysmic event of that scale isn’t likely to happen anytime soon — it’s for future generations to be concerned about.

“You have to think about the risk in terms of it’s not a risk to a person or a city, but a risk to humanity,” Eric Christensen, one of NASA’s asteroid hunters, told Vox. Smaller asteroid strikes are more likely, Vox reports, and the statistical probability is on people’s side.

“Ninety-eight percent of the planet is unpopulated or very sparsely populated,” Christensen said.

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