The high winds triggered by an asteroid impact is the wrecker-in-chief in such apocalyptic eventualities, research has revealed.
Researchers from the University of Southampton came up with the new findings. The researchers simulated three different scenarios to estimate the number of casualties an asteroid strike on Earth would cause.
The three hypothetical scenarios included a meteorite exploding in the air, on the ground, or in the ocean. The researchers found that a majority of the deaths were caused by strong winds leading to hurricane-like situations post impact.
The researchers factored in the size, speed and composition of the rock to compute the damage.
NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office tracks the paths of potentially dangerous space rocks and near-Earth objects (NEOs). There were instances in the past, spotted by NASA, when Earth narrowly escaped an asteroid collision.
A detailed case study was carried out by the research team, in which two scenarios were closely analysed. One of the scenarios revolved around an asteroid, around 50 metres wide, hitting a populated area like Berlin or London.
The second scenario dealt with a 200-metre wide asteroid entering Earth's atmosphere at 45 degrees at a speed of 20km/s.
The researchers found that around 1.2 million deaths would be caused in Berlin and more than 2.8 million deaths would be caused in London in the first scenario.
Whereas, in the second scenario, 3.5 million lives would be lost in Berlin and 8.8 lives would be lost in London.
The researchers further revealed that most of the deaths, around 85 per cent, would be due to the impact of strong winds caused by the collision.
As per a Science Alert report, if a space rock hits the Earth's surface, half of the fatalities would be caused by an airburst.