Magnitude and intensity: Measures of earthquake size and severity

Earthquake Information Bulletin (USGS)
Edited by: Henry Spall


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Earthquakes can be measured in terms of either the amount of energy they release (magnitude) or the degree of ground shaking they cause at a particular locality (intensity).  Although magnitude and intensity are basically different measures of an earthquake, they are frequently confused by the public and new reports of earthquakes.  Part of the confusion probably arises from the general similarity of scales used express these quantities.  The various magnitude scales represent logarithmic expressions of the energy released by an earthquake.  Magnitude is calculated from the record made by an earthquake on a calibrated seismograph.  There are no upper or lower limits to magnitude, although no measured earthquakes have exceeded magnitude 8.9.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Magnitude and intensity: Measures of earthquake size and severity
Series title Earthquake Information Bulletin (USGS)
Volume 14
Issue 6
Year Published 1982
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Description 11 p.
First page 209
Last page 219