The environmental effects of impact events differ with respect to time (seconds to decades) and spatial (local to global) scales. Short-term localized damage is produced by thermal radiation, blast-wave propagation in the atmosphere, crater excavation, earthquakes, and tsunami. Global and long-term effects are related to the ejection of dust and climate-active gases (carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides, water vapor, methane) into the atmosphere. At the end of the Cretaceous, the impact of a >10 km diameter asteroid led to a major mass extinction. Modern civilization is vulnerable to even relatively small impacts, which may occur in the near future, that is, tens to hundreds of years.

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