Question: I have been watching a programme on the Science channel of the dangers that will ensue when the Earth is struck by a comet or asteroid; extinction of species; damage to our atmosphere and the possible destruction of whole cities. The scenario always seems to be based on comet or asteroid striking some where on the Earth’s land mass. What if it lands in the middle of the ocean? Take as an example the asteroid that struck the Earth and allegedly caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. It has been estimated that it was about six to ten miles in diameter when it entered our atmosphere. Now instead of hitting a land mass it lands right in the middle of the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. Would it still have the same destructive consequences for life on Earth? — David
Answer: In fact, this scenario has been modelled. In 2003 scientists at the University of California at Santa Cruz studied the impact of an asteroid named 1950DA that is projected to pass very close to the Earth on March 16, 2880. The results of this simulated collision are huge tsunami waves which are upwards of 400 feet high. Furthermore, as the Earth’s surface is 70% covered by oceans, this scenario is more likely than a collision with land. This will obviously be extremely destructive, perhaps as destructive as a land mass collision.