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The Earthquake Scale

The earthquake scale called the Richter magnitude scale gives a number to describe the amount of seismic energy released by an earthquake. It is a logarithmic scale meaning that an earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger than one that measures 4.0.

Because of the logarithmic basis of the earthquake 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.

Events with magnitudes of about 4.6 or greater on the earthquake scale are strong enough to be recorded by any of the seismographs in the world, as long as the seismograph's sensors are not located in an earthquake's shadow.

The following table describes the typical effects felt near the epicenter for earthquakes of various magnitudes on the earthquake scale. The noticed effects are determined not only be the magnitude on the earthquake scale but also on the distance to the epicenter, the depth of the earthquake and geological conditions in the area.

Richter magnitude Description Earthquake effects Frequency of occurrence
Less than 2.0 Micro Microearthquakes, not felt About 8,000 per day
2.0-2.9 Minor Generally not felt, but recorded. About 1,000 per day
3.0-3.9 Often felt, but rarely causes damage. 49,000 per year (est.)
4.0-4.9 Light Noticeable shaking of indoor items, rattling noises. Significant damage unlikely. 6,200 per year (est.)
5.0-5.9 Moderate Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions. At most slight damage to well-designed buildings. 800 per year
6.0-6.9 Strong Can be destructive in areas up to about 160 kilometers (100 mi) across in populated areas. 120 per year
7.0-7.9 Major Can cause serious damage over larger areas. 18 per year
8.0-8.9 Great Can cause serious damage in areas several hundred miles across. 1 per year
9.0-9.9 Devastating in areas several thousand miles across. 1 per 20 years
10.0+ Epic Never recorded. Extremely rare (Unknown)

(Based on U.S. Geological Survey documents.)


Table of significant (not all) earthquakes since 2001. The list includes all earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or larger and only those less than 7.0 that caused signiicant damage/fatalities. Therefore, do not take the number of earthquakes listed with a magnitude below 7.0 as representative of their frequency.

Earthquakes by date, location magnitude and number of deaths.
Date Location Magnitude Deaths
2001
Jan. 1 Philippines 7.5 0
Jan. 9 Vanuatu 7.1 0
Jan. 10 United States 7.0 0
Jan. 13 El Salavador 7.7 944
Jan. 26 India 7.7 20,085
Feb. 13 El Salvador 6.6 315
Feb. 13 Indonesia 7.4 0
Feb. 24 S. Molucca Sea 7.1 0
Jun. 3 Kermadec Islands 7.2 0
Jun. 23 Peru 8.4 75
Jul. 7 Peru 7.6 1
Aug. 21 New Zealand 7.1 0
Oct. 12 Mariana Is. 7.0 0
Oct. 19 Indonesia 7.5 0
Oct. 31 Papua New Guinea 7.0 0
Nov. 14 China 7.8 0
2002
Jan. 2 Vanuatu 7.2 0
Feb. 3 Turkey 6.5 44
Mar. 3 Afghanistan 7.4 166
Mar. 5 Philippines 7.5 15
Mar. 25 Afghanistan 6.1 1,000
Mar. 31 Taiwan 7.1 5
Apr. 12 Afghanistan 5.9 50
Apr. 26 Marianna Is. 7.1 0
Jun. 22 Iran 6.5 261
Jun. 28 China 7.3 0
Aug. 19 Fiji 7.7, 7.7 261
Sep. 8 New Guinea 7.6 4
Oct. 10 Papua New Guinea 7.6 8
Oct. 31 Italy 5.9 29
Nov. 1 Kashmir 5.4 11
Nov. 2 Sumatra 7.3 3
Nov. 3 USA (Alaska) 7.9 0
Nov. 17 Kuril Is. 7.3 0
Nov. 3 Kashmir 6.3 19
2003
Jan. 20 Solomon Is. 7.3 0
Jan. 22 Mexico 7.6 29
Feb. 24 China 6.3 261
Mar. 17 United States (Alaska) 7.1 0
May 1 Turkey 6.4 177
May 21 Algeria 6.8 2,266
May 26 Japan 7.0
May 26 Indonesia 7.0 1
Jun. 20 Brazil 7.1 261
Jul. 15 Carlsberg Ridge 7.6 0
Jul. 21 China 6.0 16
Aug. 4 Scotia Sea 7.6 0
Aug. 21 New Zealand 7.2 0
Sep. 25 Japan 8.3, 7.4 0
Sep. 27 Russia 7.3 3
Oct. 31 Japan 7.0 0
Nov. 17 USA (Alaska) 7.8 0
Dec. 1 China 6.0 10
Dec. 26 Iran 6.6 29,000
Dec. 27 Loyalty Is. 7.3 0
2004
Jan. 3 Loyalty Is. 7.1 0
Feb. 5, 7 Indonesia 7.0, 7.3 37
Feb. 14 Pakistan 5.5 24
Feb. 24 Morocco 6.4 631
Mar. 25 Turkey 5.6 10
May 28 Iran 6.3 35
Jul. 1 Turkey 5.2 18
Jul. 15 Fiji 7.1 0
Jul. 25 Indonesia 7.3 0
Sep. 5 Japan 7.2 0
Sep. 5 Japan 7.4 0
Oct. 9 Nicaragua 7.0 0
Oct. 23 Japan 6.6 46
Nov. 11 Timor 7.5 34
Nov. 15 Columbia 7.2 0
Nov. 22 New Zealand 7.1 0
Nov. 26 Indonesia 7.1 32
Nov. 28 Japan 7.0 0
Dec. 23 Australia 8.1 0
Dec. 26 Indonesia 9.1 and tsunami 265,000
Dec. 26 India 7.1 0
2005
Feb. 5 Celebes Sea 7.1 2
Feb. 22 Iran 6.4 612
Mar. 2 Indonesia 7.1 0
Mar. 28 Indonesia 8.6 1,313
Jun. 13 Chile 7.8 11
Jun. 15 USA 7.2 0
Jul. 24 India 7.3 0
Aug. 16 Japan 7.2 0
Sep. 9 Papua New Guinea 7.7 0
Sep. 26 Peru 7.5 5
Oct. 8 Pakistan 7.6 93,500
Nov. 14 Japan 7.0 0
Nov. 26 China 5.2 16
Nov. 27 Iran 6.0 13
2006
Jan. 2 S. Sandwich Is. 7.4 0
Jan. 2 Fiji 7.6 0
Feb. 22 Mozambique 7.0 4
Apr. 20 Russia 7.6 0
May 3 Tonga 8.0 0
May 16 New Zealand 7.4 0
May 26 Indonesia 6.3 5,782
Jul. 17 Indonesia 7.7 665
Jul. 17 Indonesia 7.7 730
Aug. 20 Scotia Sea 7.0 0
Nov. 15 Russia 8.3 0
Dec. 26 Taiwan 7.1 2
2007
Jan. 13 Russia 8.1 0
Jan. 21 Molucca Sea 7.5 4
Mar. 6 Indonesia 6.4 67
Mar. 25 Vanuatu 7.1 0
Apr. 1 Solomon Islands 8.1 54
Apr. 21 Chile 6.2 10
Aug. 1 Vanuatu 7.2 0
Aug. 8 Indonesia 7.5 0
Aug. 15 Peru 8.0 519
Sep.2 Solomon Islands 7.2 0
Sep. 12, 12, 13 Indonesia 8.5, 7.9, 7.0 25
Sep. 28 Mariana Islands (USA) 7.5 0
Sep. 30 Auckland Island(New Zealand) 7.4 0
Oct. 31 Mariana Islands (US) 7.2 0
Nov. 14 Chile 7.7 2
Nov. 29 Windward Islands (France) 7.4 2
Dec. 9 Fiji 7.8 0
Dec. 19 US (Alaska) 7.2 0
2008
Feb. 3 Congo 5.9 44
Feb. 20 Indonesia 7.4 3
Feb. 25 Indonesia 7.2 0
Mar. 20 China 7.2 0
Apr. 9 New Caledonia 7.3 0
Apr. 12 Australia 7.1 0
May 12 China 7.9 69,197
May 24 Colombia 5.9 11
Jun. 13 Japan 6.9 13
Jun. 30 S. Sandwich Is. 7.0 0
Jul. 5 Sea of Okhotsk 7.7 0
Jul. 19 Japan 7.0 0
Aug. 30 China 6.0 43
Sep. 29 New Zealand 7.0 0
Oct. 5 Kyrgyzstan 6.7 75
Oct. 6 Tibet 6.4 10
Oct. 11 Russia 5.8 13
Oct. 28 Pakistan 6.4 215
Nov. 16 Indonesia 7.4 6
Nov. 24 Sea of Okhotsk 7.3 0
2009
Jan. 3 Indonesia 7.7, 7.4 5
Jan. 8 Costa Rica 6.1 23
Jan. 15 Russia 7.4 0
Feb. 11 Indonesia 7.2 0
Feb. 18 New Zealand 7.0 0
Mar. 19 Tonga 7.6 0
Apr. 6 Italy 6.3 294
Apr. 16 Afghanistan 5.4 22
May 28 Honduras 7.3 7
Jul. 15 New Zealand 7.8 0
Aug. 9 Japan 7.1 0
Aug. 10 Andaman Islands 7.5 0
Sep. 2 Indonesia 7.0 79
Sep. 21 Bhutan 6.1 11
Sep. 29 Samoa Islands 8.1 189
Sep. 30 Indonesia 7.6 1115
Oct. 1 Indonesia 6.6 3
Oct. 7 Vanuatu 7.7, 7.8, 7.4 0
Nov. 9 Fiji 7.3 0
2010
Jan. 3 Solomon Islands 7.1 0
Jan. 12 Haiti 7.0 316,000
Feb. 26 Ryukyu Islands 7.0 0
Feb. 27 Chile 8.8 525
Mar. 8 Turkey 6.1 42
Apr. 4 Mexico 7.2 4
Apr. 6 Sumatra 7.8 0
Apr. 13 China 6.9 2698
Apr. 18 Afghanistan 5.6 11
May 9 Sumatra 7.2 0
May 27 Vanuatu 7.1 0
Jun. 12 India 7.5 0
Jun. 16 Indonesia 7.0 17
Jul. 18 Paua New Guinea 7.3 0
Jul. 23 Philippines 7.3, 7.6, 7.4 0
Aug. 4 Papua New Guinea 7.0 0
Aug. 10 Vanuatu 7.3 0
Aug. 12 Ecuador 7.1 0
Sep. 3 New Zealand 7.1 0
Sep. 29 Indonesia 7.2 0
Oct. 25 Sumatra 7.7 408
Dec. 20 Iran 6.5 11
Dec. 21 Japan 7.4 0
Dec. 25 Vanuatu 7.3 0
2011
Jan. 1 Argentina 7.0 0
Jan. 2 Chile 7.1 0
Jan. 13 New Caledonia 7.0 0
Jan. 18 Pakistan 7.2 2
Feb. 21 New Zealand 6.1 185
Mar. 9 Japan 7.3 0
Mar. 10 China 5.5 26
Mar. 11 Japan 9.0, 7.9 18,184
Estimated as the most expensive natural disaster in history.
Mar. 24 Burma 6.9 150
Apr. 7 Japan 7.1 4
Apr. 11 Japan 7.1 4
Jun. 24 U.S., Alaska 7.2 0
Jul. 6 New Zealand 7.6 0
Jul. 10 Japan 7.0 0
Jul. 19 Kyrgystan 6.1 14
Aug. 20 Vanuatu 7.1, 7.0 0
Sep. 3 Vanuatu 7.0 0
Sep. 5 Indonesia 6.6 10
Sep. 15 Fiji 7.3 0
Sep. 18 India 6.9 111
Oct. 21 New Zealand 7.4 0
Oct. 23 Turkey 7.1 604
Nov. 9 Turkey 5.6 40
Dec. 14 New Guinea 7.1 0
2012
Jan. 10 Indonesia 7.2 0
Feb. 2 Vanuatu 7.1 0
Feb. 6 Philippines 6.7 113
Mar. 20 Mexico 7.4 2
Mar. 25 Chile 7.1 1
Apr. 11 Indonesia 8.6, 8.2 10
May 29 Italy 5.8 20
Jun. 11 Afghanistan 5.7 75
Aug. 11 Iran 6.4 306
Aug. 14 Russia 7.7 0
Aug. 27 El Salvador 7.3 0
Aug. 31 Phillipines 7.6 1
Sep. 5 Costa Rica 7.6 2
Sep. 7 China 5.6, 5.6 81
Sep. 30 Colombia 7.3 0
Oct. 28 Canada 7.7 0
Nov. 7 Guatemala 7.4 39
Nov. 11 Burma 6.8 26
Dec. 7 Japan 7.3 3
Dec. 10 Indonesia 7.1 0
2013
Jan. 5 United States 7.5 0
Feb. 6-8 Solomon Islands 8.0, 7.1, 7.0, 7.1 13
Apr. 6 Indonesia 7.0 0
Apr. 9 Iran 6.4 37
Apr. 16 Iran-Pakistan 7.7 35
Apr. 19 Russia 7.2 0
Apr. 20 China 6.6 193
Apr. 24 Afghanistan 5.6 18
May 23 Tonga 7.4 0
May 24 Russia 8.3 0
Jul. 2 Indonesia 6.1 35
Jul. 7 Papua New Guinea 7.3 0
Jul. 15 S. Sandwich Islands 7.3 0
Jul. 21 China 5.9 95
Aug. 30 United States (Alaska) 7.0 0
Sep. 24 Pakistan 7.7 825
Sep. 25 Peru 7.1 3
Sep. 28 Pakistan 6.8 22
Oct. 15 Philippines 7.1 222
Oct. 25 Japan 7.1 0
Nov. 17 Scotia Sea 7.7 0
Nov. 25 Falkland Is. 7.0 0
2014
Apr. 1 Chile 8.2 6
Apr. 3 Chile 7.7 0
Apr. 11 Papua New Guinea 7.1 1
Apr. 12 Solomon Islands 7.6 0
Apr. 13 Solomon Islands 7.4 0
Apr. 18 Mexico 7.2 0
Jun. 23 Alaska 7.9 0
Aug. 3 China 6.2 617
Oct. 9 Chile 7.0 0
Oct. 14 Nicaragua 7.3 1
Nov. 1 Fiji 7.1 0
Nov. 15 Indonesia 7.1 0
2015
Feb. 13 Greenland 7.1 0
Feb. 27 Flores Sea 7.0 0
Mar. 29 Papua New Guinea 7.5 0
Apr. 25 Nepal 7.8 9,018
May 5 Papua New Guinea 7.1 0
May 7 Solomon Sea 7.1 0
May 12 Nepal 7.3 218
May 30 Japan 7.8 0
Jul. 18 Solomon Is. 7.0 0
Jul. 27 Indonesia 7.0 1
Sep. 16 Chile 8.3 14
Oct. 20 Vanuatu 7.1 0
Oct. 26 Afghanistan 7.5 398
Nov. 18 Solomon Is. 7.0 0
Nov. 24 Peru 7.6, 7.6 (2 quakes) 0
Dec. 4 SE Indian Ridge 7.1 0
Dec. 7 Tajikistan 7.2 2

From the table above, I compiled the number of worldwide earthquakes by year and by magnitude to produce the following chart.

Earthquakes by Year
If you would like the most up-to-date information about recent earthquakes, how they measure on the earthquake scale and the number of deaths caused go to this site.  


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