In the event that a meteor were to hit our planet, most of us would probably assume we'd die from the sheer impact of the huge rock, or the intense pressure caused by such an event.
Nah. While those things would certainly kill a considerable amount of people, what we really need to be worried about are the high-intensity winds.
Researchers from the University of Southampton crunched the hypothetical numbers to see just how many human casualties there would be in three different meteor impact scenarios: one in which a meteor blows up in the atmosphere (which is called an air burst), one where a meteor hits the ground and one that splashes into the ocean.
Regardless of how those three scenarios play out, the researchers still concluded most deaths would result from intense wind gusts, which would apparently cause hurricane-like devastation.
Based on what they know about population densities and cultural behaviors, the researchers used the global population of 7.3 billion people to determine that the average westerner is pretty unsheltered for about three hours each day.
People in other countries could be unprotected outside for as long as six hours a day.
Basically, regardless of where you live or how the meteor makes contact with Earth, approximately 85 percent of people would die as a result of being blown about uncontrollably outside.
Or, if you're inside a building, the structure would likely collapse following the air burst.
Apparently, only a quarter of casualties would be the result of thermal effects surrounding impact craters, with another quarter the direct result of the pressure shockwave.
Being squashed by giant, falling rocks should actually be the least of your concerns, according to these numbers, which say only two or three percent of deaths would happen this way.
As scary as these events are to think about, you can take some solace in the fact that apocalyptic meteors are only expected to hit Earth about once every 40,000 years, with just a 0.01 percent chance that we'll see one in the next century.
Clemens Rumpf, a researcher affiliated with the study, told New Scientist,
Chances are that an asteroid hits the water, and even if it hits land, it's much more likely that it will hit away from populated regions. These are very rare events, but with potentially high consequences.
When I think about it, I guess I'm cool with being killed by high-intensity winds, given how effing ~fierce~ I look when the wind blows through my hair.
If I have to die, at least I'll die fabulously.
Citations: Scientists Warn It's the Killer Winds to Watch Out for When Apocalytic Asteroids Strike (ScienceAlert), The greatest danger asteroids pose to us is not from the impact (New Scientist), NASA Wants to Let You Know There's No Asteroid Threatening Earth Right Now (ScienceAlert)