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The severity of an earthquake

January 1, 2012

The severity of an earthquake can be expressed in terms of both intensity and magnitude. However, the two terms are quite different, and they are often confused. Intensity is based on the observed effects of ground shaking on people, buildings, and natural features. It varies from place to place within the disturbed region depending on the location of the observer with respect to the earthquake epicenter. Magnitude is related to the amount of seismic energy released at the hypocenter of the earthquake. It is based on the amplitude of the earthquake waves recorded on instruments
which have a common calibration. The magnitude of an earthquake is thus represented by a single, instrumentally determined value.