Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Scary Stuff

Fortunately, for mankind, it is indeed very rare for ameteorite or an asteroid to reach the earth. Noasteroid has fallen on the earth within recordedhistory. Most meteorites burn as they reach theearth's atmosphere. However, large meteorites havehit the earth's surface in the distant past. This isindicated by large craters, which have been found indifferent parts of the earth. Also, it is possiblethat an asteroid may have fallen on the earth inprehistoric times - the last one some 65 million yearsago during the Cretaceous period. Since evidence ofthe fall of meteorites and asteroids on earth exists,we must conclude that they have fallen also in theoceans and seas of the earth, particularly since fourfifths of our planet is covered by water. The fallof meteorites or asteroids in the earth's oceans hasthe potential of generating tsunamis of cataclysmicproportions. Scientists studying this possibilityhave concluded that the impact of moderately largeasteroid, 5-6 km in diameter, in the middle of thelarge ocean basin such as the Atlantic Ocean, wouldproduce a tsunami that would travel all the way to theAppalachian Mountains in the upper two-thirds of theUnited States. On both sides of the Atlantic, coastalcities would be washed out by such a tsunami. Anasteroid 5-6 kilometers in diameter impacting betweenthe Hawaiian Islands and the West Coast of NorthAmerica, would produce a tsunami which would wash outthe coastal cities on the West coasts of Canada, U.S.and Mexico and would cover most of the inhabitedcoastal areas of the Hawaiian islands. Conceivablytsunami waves can also be generated from very largenuclear explosions. However, no tsunami of anysignificance has ever resulted from the testing ofnuclear weapons in the past. Furthermore, suchtesting is presently prohibited by internationaltreaty.


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