“The threat of the Earth being hit by an asteroid is increasingly being accepted as the single greatest natural disaster hazard faced by humanity,” says Nick Bailey of the University of Southampton's School of Engineering Sciences team, who developed the identifying program.
The team used raw data from multiple impact simulations to rank each country based on the number of times and how severely they would be affected by each impact. The software, called NEOimpactor (from NASA's "NEO" or Near Earth Object program), has been specifically developed for measuring the impact of 'small' asteroids under one kilometer in diameter.
Early results indicate that in terms of population lost, China, Indonesia, India, Japan and the United States face the greatest overall threat; while the United States, China, Sweden, Canada and Japan face the most severe economic effects due to the infrastructure destroyed.
The top ten countries most at risk are China, Indonesia, India, Japan, the United States, the Philippines, Italy, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Nigeria.
“The consequences for human populations and infrastructure as a result of an impact are enormous,” says Bailey. “Nearly one hundred years ago a remote region near the Tunguska River witnessed the largest asteroid impact event in living memory when a relatively small object (approximately 50 metres in diameter) exploded in mid-air. While it only flattened unpopulated forest, had it exploded over London it could have devastated everything within the M25. Our results highlight those countries that face the greatest risk from this most global of natural hazards and thus indicate which nations need to be involved in mitigating the threat.”
The team is also examining how the consequences of an impact change with increasing impact energy. Initial results indicate that a 100 meter diameter asteroid will predominantly cause localized casualties and damage across a few countries when impacting on either land or ocean. However, the consequences of a 200 meter diameter asteroid hitting the ocean increase significantly, with the generated tsunamis reaching a global scale. At 500 meters in diameter, almost any ocean impact will generate significant casualties and economic cost across the world.
Posted by Rebecca Sato
Note: This post was adapted from a news release issued by University of Southampton.
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