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Richter's Scale

 

Charles Francis Richter

 Charles Francis Richter was born in the Ohio countryside on April 26, 1900. He and his mother migrated to southern California when he was a teenager, where he got enrolled in a college. Latter he moved to Palo Alto to study physics at Stanford University. After graduation Richter returned and started working at the Seismological Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. In 1928, he got his doctorate in theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology.

The Richter magnitude scale was developed by him in 1935 while he was at the California Institute of Technology as a mathematical device to compare the size of earthquakes. In Richter's Scale the magnitude of an earthquake is determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of waves recorded by seismographs. Adjustments are included for the variation in the distance between the various seismographs and the epicenter of the earthquakes. On the Richter Scale, magnitude is expressed in whole numbers and decimal fractions. For example, a magnitude 5.3 might be computed for a moderate earthquake, and a strong earthquake might be rated as magnitude 6.3. Because of the logarithmic basis of the scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in measured amplitude; as an estimate of energy, each whole number step in the magnitude scale corresponds to the release of about 31 times more energy than the amount associated with the preceding whole number value.

The Richter magnitude scale can be used to describe earthquakes so small that they are expressed in negative numbers. The scale also has no upper limit, so it can describe earthquakes of unimaginable and (so far) un-experienced intensity, such as magnitude 10.0 and beyond.

 

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