Brain Post: How Does the Richter Magnitude Scale for Earthquakes Work?

Kyler Roush | | BrainsBrains

Today we are going to shake up your understanding of earthquakes.

The Richter Magnitude Scale, often referred to simply as The Richter Scale, was developed in 1935 by Charles Francis Richter and Beno Gutenberg.  Both were from the California Institute of Technology.  Their study was originally intended to only be used in a certain area in California.  Richter as a child was captivated by astrology and was inspired by the apparent magnitude scale used to measure the brightness of a celestial body, and applied its concept in his work in seismology.

The modern day Richter Scale classifies an earthquakes release of energy on a scale of 0.0 through 10.0.  However modern day equipment is so sensitive that earthquakes of a negative magnitude are routinely recorded.

Q. So how can 0.0 earthquake that is so small that it can barely be sensed by highly specialized equipment scale to a 3.0 that can often be felt by people and a 10.0 that is so powerful it has only been hypothesized to be possible?

A. Because of the logarithmic basis of the scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in measured amplitude; in terms of energy, each whole number increase corresponds to an increase of about 31.6 times the amount of energy released, and each increase of 0.2 corresponds to a doubling of the energy released.

Richter Scale Chart

Many factors must be taken into account when looking the destructive potential of any given seismic event.  Factors such as: event duration, depth occurred, soil type, and even the fault slipping vertically or horizontally.

March 11th 2011, Japan, 7th most powerful earthquake ever.

Related Articles

5 thoughts on “Brain Post: How Does the Richter Magnitude Scale for Earthquakes Work?

  1. “Richter as a child was captivated by astrology …”
    That is untrue: Richter was captivated by astronomy, which is quite different from astrology!

Got an opinion? Let us know...