What happens if the asteroid crashes into Los Angeles?

What happens if the asteroid crashes into Los Angeles?

Suppose there is an asteroid rushing to the west coast of the United States, and there is no way to stop it. What would we do? Well, NASA and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) have a plan.

The solar system is filled with wandering cosmic stones, buzzing through interplanetary space, and several hundred of them, as you know, have orbits that bring them close enough to the Earth, which is disturbing. Although none of them intend to approach our planet in the next century for the risk of collision, there are still asteroids that are capable of such a threat. So let's fantasize about this question: what if the specific American city of Los Angeles is taken for a specific purpose on Earth?

Although the City of Angels is no stranger to Hollywood doomsday (in particular, playing the lead role in an alien invasion “Battle for Los Angeles” or in a disaster film “2012”), the region is already the focus of regular earthquake warnings and it seems to be constantly fighting forest fires. In general, it seems that the threat is hiding around every corner.

And now, as if Los Angeles had gotten so little, NASA and FEMA held a joint emergency scheduled meeting last month to simulate a big asteroid impact in this region, which was supposed to show how we act and react to such an event. “It is very important to test these unlikely scenarios with a high level of consequences,” said FEMA administrator Craig Fugate in a statement. “By practicing our emergency response plans now, we can be better prepared if the situation happens in reality.”

Simulation implies that an asteroid will be detected (fictitious!) With a probability of 2%, that it will crash into the Earth on September 20, 2020. Two percent seem to be a small indicator, but if we pay attention to its approximate size of 300-800 feet (100- 250 meters), we will quickly understand what kind of power of its influence and what significant regional destruction will cause a blow. Of course, this discovery will force us to keep a close eye on the stone in the hope that the risk will decrease, and we will be able to quickly react to the place where the worst will happen.

Let's call our space marauder “Asteroid 2016 OMG”.

Usually, we prefer to start modeling asteroids that are approaching the Earth, but allow enough time to react and adjust their course. Although there are many good ideas about how we could deflect an asteroid from a collision with our planet (including using space lasers to evaporate water on an asteroid, use a “gravity tractor” and drag it off and even nuclear weapons), in this simulation, NASA and FEMA do not have that much time. It will take years to create a spacecraft and send it to an asteroid. And then, who knows how long it will take to physical deviation. Forget the nuclear warhead option - these are purely Hollywood methods. No, it will also have a bad effect on us - the Earth will get a fist across the face. In this simulation, by the end of 2017, astronomers had a very good understanding of the OMG orbit — it operates on an ellipse extending through Southern California into the Pacific Ocean. Now we know the time and place. It's time for emergency agencies to formulate a response.

First of all: do not panic.

It certainly doesn’t sound like a great strategy, but at least we have time to move people from the strike zone to safe areas to deal with the consequences faster.

“The high degree of initial uncertainty, coupled with a relatively long warning time for a strike, makes this scenario unique and especially difficult for emergency managers,” said Levit A. Lewis of the National Coordination Response for FEMA's main department. “This is very different from events with much shorter deadlines, like a hurricane.”

During the simulation, participants developed a plan for how to disseminate information about a future strike and how to deal with misinformation in society. Then we need to consider the implications for Los Angeles and the different results if OMG lands in the desert or ocean. Although a blow to the land would cause widespread destruction, a blow to the water will lead to a small tsunami that can flood vast areas of the coast. Also disturbing is the energy flowing from an air explosion when the asteroid passes through the atmosphere. Recalling the relatively small Russian meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk in 2013, we can underestimate the damage that will be caused to the populated area by the shock wave. Although there is still no assessment of how well the plan has been worked out, it is already gratifying that such a scenario is being considered at all. Looking back at the geological history of the Earth, where asteroid impacts are common, it is just a matter of time when we will encounter a large piece of cosmic rock.

“These workings are invaluable to those of us in the asteroid scientific community who are responsible for interacting with FEMA on this natural hazard,” said Lindley Johnson, a NASA planetary defense officer. “We receive valuable responses from emergency officers. And we better understand what information plays a decisive role in decision-making and, through training, we realize how we will provide information to FEMA about the predicted strike. ”

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