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The Earthquake Richter Scale Explained



The Richter Scale is a measurement of the magnitude of an earthquake and is used to determine the intensity and destruction of an earthquake. Developed in the 1930s by Dr. Charles Richter, the scale is based on the amplitude of seismic waves, which is the energy released during an earthquake.


The Richter Scale is divided into levels, each level representing a different degree of intensity.


Level 1: A minor earthquake, usually not felt.

Level 2: A weak earthquake, usually not felt by most people. Level 1 and 2 quakes occur nearly everyday somewhere in the world and largely go unnoticed.

Level 3: A small earthquake, often felt, but not causing much damage.

Level 4: A moderate earthquake, felt by most people and causing moderate damage. Level 3 and 4 quakes happen quite regularly, but given many occur outside of metro areas, they often go unnoticed.

Level 5: A strong earthquake, felt by everyone and causing considerable damage.

Level 6: A major earthquake, felt by everyone and causing heavy damage.

Level 7: A major earthquake, felt by everyone and causing severe damage.

Level 8: A great earthquake, felt by everyone and causing extreme damage.

Level 9: A great earthquake, felt by everyone and causing catastrophic damage. Anything above a level 5 is likely noticed and can often be felt miles, if not hundreds of miles away.


Earthquakes at levels 5 or above are fairly rare, with only about 10-20 happening each year. Level 8 earthquakes are even rarer, with only about one or two occurring each year.


The most recent earthquake of level 8 or higher happened in Chile on April 1, 2014, and registered at a magnitude of 8.2. The earthquake caused widespread destruction, killing dozens of people and resulting in more than $30 billion in damages.


The amount of destruction and damage caused by an earthquake is largely determined by the magnitude of the earthquake, as measured by the Richter Scale. Earthquakes of level 5 or higher can cause destruction on a large scale, while those of level 8 or higher can cause catastrophic damage. It is important to be aware of the potential destruction of an earthquake, in order to be prepared in the event of one.


Is your property ready for a quake? Find out with a complimentary seismic retrofit assessment. Book an appointment with us today.

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