Can humanity survive an impact (e.g. meteorite)?

quote: ‘It is not the case that after the meteorite impact the lights suddenly went out. Because there was a lot of dust in the atmosphere, there was much less light, with the result that the plants could no longer grow properly and there was much less food. Because smaller animals need less food, it may very well have been the case that they did not go extinct.’

With another question I came across the above answer, as a follow-up I wonder if people have now built up reserves, can the survivors of the natural disasters caused by an impact (does not have to be as big as the one that made the Dino’s extinct but a smaller with a chance of survival) (I am thinking of disasters such as earthquakes, floods, eruptions, climate changes due to dust clouds) than trying to survive in the darkness, since people are also able to come up with solutions, to protect themselves, to get food?

Asker: loan, 30 years


If we were to experience another impact like 65 million years ago, our reserves would not really be enough to survive peacefully until all the disaster has passed. They would provide very short solace: if the power goes out, you can quickly throw away the meat in your freezer, because it has gone bad…

We cannot say with much certainty what chain of subsequent catastrophes would follow such an impact. There is controversy about what happened 65 million years ago, which is not surprising, because the traces of it are not so clear. It is also likely that what exactly happens depends strongly on where on Earth the impact occurs.

But as in other domains, prevention is much more important here than post-crisis management. The doomsday scenarios about impacts usually forget to mention that such objects don’t just appear out of nowhere, they are objects in the solar system orbiting the Sun, which could normally have been seen long before impact. We now know that the asteroid that fell 65 million years ago had already crossed the Earth’s orbit millions of times, and it’s hard to see next to such objects today. We know from observations today that there are about 1,000 orbit-intersecting objects with a size greater than 1 km (thus still 10 times smaller than the asteroid of that time, and with 1,000 times less mass), and that we can track the orbits of most of them. know. If any of those can ever become really dangerous, we have the time and the strategies to avert the disaster. We should not so much fear that the same thing will happen to us again, we may even wonder about the lack of development of the dinosaurs that they ‘have not been aware’.

Answered by

prof. Christopher Waelkens


Catholic University of Leuven
Old Market 13 3000 Leuven


Recent Articles

Related Stories

Stay on op - Ge the daily news in your inbox