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What to do if an asteroid comes our way

Chelyabinsk meteor blast
A series of video frames shows the Chelyabinsk meteor passing through the skies above the Siberian city of Kamensk-Uralskiy on Feb. 15, 2013. (Aleksandr Ivanov / Popova et al. / Science / AAAS)

If an asteroid strikes, don’t head for the hills, or the windows: Head for the basement.

A study aimed at sorting out the effects of a catastrophic asteroid impact found that violent winds and pressure shock waves would be the biggest killers, accounting for more than 60 percent of the lives lost in simulated scenarios.

“This is the first study that looks at all seven impact effects generated by hazardous asteroids and estimates which are, in terms of human loss, most severe,” Clemens Rumpf, a senior research assistant at the University of Southampton in Britain, said today in a news release from the American Geophysical Union.

Rumpf is the lead author of the study, which is published in Geophysical Research Letters, an AGU journal.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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