What does earthquake magnitude mean?
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s crust that creates seismic waves. It is one of most powerful and most disastrous forces in nature. This animation compares the “sizes” of recent years historical earthquakes.
The magnitude of most earthquakes is measured on the Richter scale, invented by Charles F. Richter in 1934.
Each circle’s area in this video, indicates relative energy release, color indicates tsunami potential (see http://ptwc.weather.gov/ptwc/about_messages.php), and labels indicate each earthquake’s moment magnitude (according to USGS/NEIC), location, and the year they happened.
Each earthquake magnitude is 33 times more powerful than the one before!
A recording of 7, for example, indicates a disturbance with ground motion 10 times as large as a recording of 6. The energy released by an earthquake increases by a factor of 30 for every unit increase in the Richter scale. The table below gives the frequency of earthquakes and the effects of the earthquakes based on this scale.
The live global seismic monitor
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