In 2010 alone, over 21,000 earthquakes were recorded around the world. While tragedies like the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti are an important reminder of the power of these natural disasters, knowing more about how and why these tremors occur can help relieve some of the fear.
As news of the Japanese earthquake made headlines around the world in early March, 2011, many focused on the fact that it registered well over 8.0 on the Richter scale.
According to the USGS: “The total energy from an earthquake includes energy required to create new cracks in rock, energy dissipated as heat through friction, and energy elastically radiated through the earth. Of these, the only quantity that can be measured is that which is radiated through the earth. It is the radiated energy that shakes buildings and is recorded by seismographs on the Richter scale.”
The Richter magnitude scale is a measurement of the seismic energy released by an earthquake. It is a logorithmic scale, so a 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude that is 10 times greater than a quake that registered 4.0.
As you can see below, even a 5.0 earthquake has the potential to cause some serious damage.
After final calculations, geologists determined that the Japanese earthquake that triggered the devastating tsunami registered right at 9.0 on the Richter scale. This earthquake released enough energy to power the entire country of Norway for two years (if we only had a way to capture it!).
To learn more about the amazing energy of earthquakes, view the entire inforgraphic from which this image was taken.