Team warns of potential catastrophe from meteorite strike

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The Secure World Foundation (SWF) has warned the UN that it may be too disorganised to avoid disaster in the event of a major meteorite strike.

The group of international experts has outlined the steps it believes necessary to establish a global detection and warning network to deal with possible Near Earth Object (NEO) threats to Earth.

The report follows a workshop in Mexico in January to examine the seriousness of the threat.

"The Mexico City workshop provided a major step forward in our thinking about the needed components of an information, analysis, and warning network for asteroids," said Dr Ray A Williamson, executive director of Secure World Foundation.

"The workshop findings should go a long way toward providing the basis for such a network."

The team considered a series of scenarios that a future Information Analysis and Warning Network (IAWN) providing global warning and technical analysis would encounter in dealing with an Earth-threatening asteroid.

The SWF points out that scientific developments have made it possible to predict with some accuracy - and sometimes decades in advance - whether a NEO could present a serious threat.

It's also now possible in many cases to minimize the chances of an actual collision with the Earth.

But, says the team, there is currently no international framework for dealing with such issues, leading to the risk of potentially catastrophic damage.

And a second, legal and institutional report advises that there needs to be a more comprehensive and in‐depth analysis of the key legal and institutional issues, "preferably prior to the first occasion of an actual serious NEO threat arising".