The richter scale measures the largest wiggle (amplitude) on the recording, but other magnitude scales measure different parts of the earthquake. The usgs currently reports earthquake magnitudes using the moment magnitude scale, though many other magnitudes are calculated for research and comparison purposes.
What Measures an Earthquake?
An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the earth‘s surface caused by the release of energy in the earth‘s lithosphere.
Earthquakes can range in size from those that are so weak that they cannot be felt to those violent enough to toss people around and destroy whole cities.
The severity of an earthquake is measured by its magnitude and is recorded on the Richter scale.
The Richter scale is a logarithmic scale, which means that an earthquake with a magnitude of 5 is 10 times as strong as an earthquake with a magnitude of 4 and 100 times as strong as an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.
Magnitude is calculated based on the amplitude of the waves recorded by seismographs. The largest earthquake ever recorded was a magnitude 9.5 that struck Chile in 1960.
The strength of an earthquake also depends on its depth. Shallow earthquakes, those with depths of less than 70 kilometers, tend to be more destructive than deep earthquakes.
This is because shallow earthquakes occur near the earth‘s surface, where most people live and where most structures are built.
Deep earthquakes, on the other hand, occur at depths of 300 kilometers or more and cause less damage. The most damage from an earthquake is typically caused by shaking and ground failure