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September 1, 2014 AT 1:00 pm

Is There a Better Way to Measure Earthquakes?

Lead

In this piece from the Atlantic, Adrienne Lafrance explores the reasoning behind how we measure earthquakes:

Earthquakes aren’t measured linearly, but in orders of magnitude. Which means a 6.1 magnitude quake like the one that shook Northern California over the weekend is about twice as big as the 5.8 earthquake that rattled Washington, D.C., in 2011—and nearly three times as strong in terms of the amount of energy it released. Some more context: The 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010 was eight times bigger than the Northern California quake, and released 22 times more energy. None of this jibes with the linear way people use numbers for most measurements in daily life.

Read more.


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