How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement
© Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Torino Impact Hazard Scale

The following revised description of the Torino Scale was posted on the NASA Near Earth Objects Program web site. Thanks to Prof. Richard P. Binzel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the inventor of the scale, for alerting me to this revision.

THE TORINO IMPACT HAZARD SCALE

Assessing Asteroid And Comet Impact Hazard Predictions In The 21st Century

No Hazard
(White Zone)

0

The likelihood of a collision is zero, or is so low as to be effectively zero. Also applies to small objects such as meteors and bodies that burn up in the atmosphere as well as infrequent meteorite falls that rarely cause damage.
Normal
(Green Zone)

1

A routine discovery in which a pass near the Earth is predicted that poses no unusual level of danger. Current calculations show the chance of collision is extremely unlikely with no cause for public attention or public concern. New telescopic observations very likely will lead to re-assignment to Level 0.
Meriting Attention by Astronomers
(Yellow Zone)

2

A discovery, which may become routine with expanded searches, of an object making a somewhat close but not highly unusual pass near the Earth. While meriting attention by astronomers, there is no cause for public attention or public concern as an actual collision is very unlikely. New telescopic observations very likely will lead to re-assignment to Level 0.

3

A close encounter, meriting attention by astronomers. Current calculations give a 1% or greater chance of collision capable of localized destruction. Most likely, new telescopic observations will lead to re-assignment to Level 0. Attention by public and by public officials is merited if the encounter is less than a decade away.

4

A close encounter, meriting attention by astronomers. Current calculations give a 1% or greater chance of collision capable of regional devastation. Most likely, new telescopic observations will lead to re-assignment to Level 0. Attention by public and by public officials is merited if the encounter is less than a decade away.
Threatening
(Orange Zone)

5

A close encounter posing a serious, but still uncertain threat of regional devastation. Critical attention by astronomers is needed to determine conclusively whether or not a collision will occur. If the encounter is less than a decade away, governmental contingency planning may be warranted.

6

A close encounter by a large object posing a serious but still uncertain threat of a global catastrophe. Critical attention by astronomers is needed to determine conclusively whether or not a collision will occur. If the encounter is less than three decades away, governmental contingency planning may be warranted.

7

A very close encounter by a large object, which if occurring this century, poses an unprecedented but still uncertain threat of a global catastrophe. For such a threat in this century, international contingency planning is warranted, especially to determine urgently and conclusively whether or not a collision will occur.
Certain Collisions
(Red Zone)

8

A collision is certain, capable of causing localized destruction for an impact over land or possibly a tsunami if close offshore. Such events occur on average between once per 50 years and once per several 1000 years.

9

A collision is certain, capable of causing unprecedented regional devastation for a land impact or the threat of a major tsunami for an ocean impact. Such events occur on average between once per 10,000 years and once per 100,000 years.

10

A collision is certain, capable of causing global climatic catastrophe that may threaten the future of civilization as we know it, whether impacting land or ocean. Such events occur on average once per 100,000 years, or less often.

Note: the Torino Scale was recently revised according to this recent publication:

Morrison, D., Chapman, C. R., Steel, D., and Binzel R. P. "Impacts and the Public: Communicating the Nature of the Impact Hazard" In Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids,(M.J.S. Belton, T.H. Morgan, N.H. Samarasinha and D.K. Yeomans, Eds), Cambridge University Press, 2004.

A graphic of the Torino Scale is also available here:

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/images/torino_scale.jpg

 

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All material in this folder is copyright © 2005 by Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Permission is granted for personal use and for use by individual teachers in conducting their own classes. All other rights reserved. You are welcome to make links to this page, but please do not copy the contents of any page in this folder to another site. The material at this site will be updated from time to time.

Revised April 26, 2005.