Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Can "MegaQuakes" really happen? Like a magnitude 10 or larger?

No, earthquakes of magnitude 10 or larger cannot happen. The magnitude of an earthquake is related to the length of the fault on which it occurs. That is, the longer the fault, the larger the earthquake. A fault is a break in the rocks that make up the Earth's crust, along which rocks on either side have moved past each other. No fault long enough to generate a magnitude 10 earthquake is known to exist, and if it did, it would extend around most of the planet.

The largest earthquake ever recorded was a magnitude 9.5 on May 22, 1960 in Chile on a fault that is almost 1,000 miles long…a “megaquake” in its own right.

Learn more: Earthquake Magnitude, Energy Release, and Shaking Intensity

Related Content