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At what magnitude does damage begin to occur in an earthquake?

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Greetings all, I'm Steve Sobieszczyk. If you've listened to the USGS CoreCast, you know a little bit more about USGS science thanks, in part, to exclusive interviews with USGS scientists on a number of natural science topics. But for those of you who want more, say a daily dose of scientific knowledge to amaze your friends, then we've got just the thing for you. We're launching a new podcast, this podcast, called the USGS CoreFacts. This is, of course, the inaugural episode. Every weekday, excluding the Federal Holidays, for which we normally don't work, CoreFacts will offer a daily question and answer. And as an added bonus, you can help. That's right, we want your questions to answer, but more on that in just a moment.

First, here's today's question:

At what magnitude does damage begin to occur in an earthquake?

There is not one magnitude above which damage will occur. It depends on other variables, such as the distance from the earthquake and what type of soil you are on. That being said, damage does not usually occur until the earthquake magnitude reaches somewhere above 4 or 5.

If you want to learn more about earthquakes, check out the USGS Earthquake website at As always, you can also get other general information by visiting the USGS homepage at And don't forget to visit the USGS CoreCast for more in-depth science coverage at

Now, as I mentioned earlier, if you'd like to have your question featured in a future CoreFact episode, send it to [that's C-O-R-E-F-A-C-T-S at U-S-G-S dot G-O-V] Or leave a voicemail with us at 703-648-5600; however, remember this is a long distance charge, so long distance fees do apply. And join us again tomorrow for some more science trivia.

The USGS CoreFacts is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.

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