April 26, 2012 - Richter Scale Day

Today's the birthday of Charles Richter (born on this date in 1900), who grew up to be a seismologist.

That's a person who studies earthquakes.

Richter invented a scale so that scientists could measure and compare the size and strength of different earthquakes. The scale runs from 0 to 10, and going up one number on the scale means that the earthquakes is TEN TIMES larger! In other words, an earthquake that measures 7.0 on the Richter Scale is ten times worse than one that measures 6.0.

And, believe me, an earthquake that measures 6.0 is pretty darned strong. It can be felt for miles, and it can fling stuff off of shelves, and even do some damage to bridges and buildings.

The devastating earthquake that hit Japan in March of 2011 was a 9.0 on the scale! (A thousand times larger than the 6.0 quake I was talking about, and a hundred times larger than the quake that ravaged Haiti in 2010!) This 2011 earthquake was the worst in Japan's history and one of the five worst earthquakes in the world since scientists started keeping track. Of course, one reason so many thousands of people died is because the earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami, or “tidal wave.” It was truly an enormous tragedy.

  • Get ready for earthquakes and other natural disasters using ideas from this FEMA site

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