If you're one of the many who endured a tough winter this year, consider yourself lucky. In Russia it has been raining—rocks!
Coming right at you—meteor striking near Murmansk, Russia. Source: YouTube
A meteor terrified Russia at the end of April. (Everyone knows that a meteor is in the sky and a meteorite is when it strikes the Earth’s surface, right?) Only last year a large meteorite exploded over the Russian town of Chelyabinsk Oblast. Its huge blast in the air sent a shock wave that shattered windows and hurt 1,496 people. No one was killed. This made the citizens of the city of Murmansk nervous when they saw a similar rock hurtling toward them on April 20. Fortunately, it exploded leaving no injuries but a lot of great pictures.
The most unnerving part of the story is the casual line at the end, “Some 500 meteorites reach Earth each year, though many are small and are not spotted.” Gulp! Fortunately only 5 or 6 of these are big enough to detect on our weather radar.
500 meteorites reach Earth each year. Source: NASA
As long as we are getting scary—in mid-April the B612 Foundation reported that, since 2000, there have been 26 asteroid blasts equivalent to at least 1,000 tons of TNT. In four of those incidents, the space rock's explosion unleashed more energy than the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima. (Maybe I should have posted this on Halloween!) The Chelyabinsk meteor had the force of 20 Hiroshima bombs while a house-sized blast off the coast of Indonesia was more powerful than three Hiroshima bombs.
This was not a surprise to me. A weapon’s scientist told me about how frequent these hits are. He told amusing stories of national security detecting 90 big blasts in two decades and dashing around the globe trying to discover if they were bombs or meteorites. Frequently they met scientists and agents from other countries trying to figure out the same thing. None of these blasts killed anyone and, aside from Chelyabinsk, only one person, Ann Hodges, claims to have been hurt by a strike. (She had a nasty bruise!)
The Sylacauga meteorite—the only meteorite known to have hit and hurt anyone. Source Wikipedia
So if you don’t like your current weather, don’t complain. At least it’s not raining rocks on you!
Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, blogger, writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac, and editor of The Browning Newsletter, has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.