Richter Scale

The Richter scale is a scale of numbers used to tell the power (or magnitude) of earthquakes. This article will give details about the Richter Scale.

Its details will be of immense use for candidates attempting the Science and Technology segment of the IAS Exam.

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Overview of Richter Scale

The Richter magnitude scale (also Richter scale) assigns a magnitude number to quantify the energy released by an earthquake. The Richter scale, developed in the 1930s by Charles Richter, is a base-10 logarithmic scale, which defines magnitude as the logarithm of the ratio of the amplitude of the seismic waves to an arbitrary, minor amplitude.

As measured with a seismometer, an earthquake that registers 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times that of an earthquake that registered 4.0, and thus corresponds to a release of energy 31.6 times that released by the lesser earthquake.

Prior to the development of the magnitude scale, the only measure of an earthquake’s strength or “size” was a subjective assessment of the intensity of shaking observed near the epicenter of the earthquake, categorized by various seismic intensity scales such as the Rossi-Forel scale. In 1883 John Milne surmised that the shaking of large earthquakes might generate waves detectable around the globe, and in 1899 E. Von Rehbur Paschvitz observed in Germany seismic waves attributable to an earthquake in Tokyo.

Description of the Richter Scale

The following table gives a brief description of the Richter Scale

Richter Scale (Effects of Earthquakes)



Average earthquake effects 

1.0–1.9 Micro Microearthquakes, not felt, or felt rarely. Recorded by seismographs
2.0–2.9 Minor Felt slightly by some people. No damage to buildings.
3.0–3.9 Minor Often felt by people, but very rarely causes damage. Shaking of indoor objects can be noticeable.
4.0–4.9 Light Noticeable shaking of indoor objects and rattling noises. Felt by most people in the affected area.
5.0–5.9 Moderate Can cause damage of varying severity to poorly constructed buildings. Zero to slight damage to all other buildings.
6.0–6.9 Strong Damage to a moderate number of well-built structures in populated areas. Earthquake-resistant structures survive with slight to moderate damage
7.0–7.9 Major Causes damage to most buildings, some to partially or completely collapse or receive severe damage.
8.0–8.9 Great Major damage to buildings, structures likely to be destroyed
9.0 and greater Geat At or near total destruction – severe damage or collapse to all buildings. Heavy damage and shaking extends to distant locations.

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