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Lecture #14Earthquake Size

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How is Earthquake Size


Determined ?
(1) Maximum Seismic Intensity
Outdated method
Does not use seismometers
Many problems

(2) Magnitudes
Modern method
Uses seismometers
Fewer problems
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Maximum Intensity

Maximum Intensity is
used to estimate the size
of historical
earthquakes, but suffers
from dependence on
depth, population,
construction practices,
site effects, regional
geology, etc.
Maximum
Intensity = VII

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1906 SF and 1811-12 New Madrid

These earthquakes were roughly the same size, but the


intensity patterns in the east are broader than in the west.
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Earthquake Magnitude

Earthquake magnitude scales originated


because of
the desire for an objective measure of
earthquake size
Technological advances -> seismometers

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Earthquake Magnitudes

In the 1930s, Wadati in Japan and Richter


in California noticed that although the peak
amplitudes on seismograms from different
events differed, the peak amplitudes
decreased with distance in a similar manner
for different quakes.

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Seismogram Peak Amplitude

The peak amplitude is the size of the largest


deflection from the zero line.

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Richters Observations

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Richters Local Magnitude

Richter used these observations to construct


the first magnitude scale, ML (Richters
Local Magnitude for Southern California).

He based his formula for calculating the


magnitude on the astronomical brightness
scale - which was logarithmic.

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Logarithmic Scales

In a logarithmic scale such as magnitude


A change in one magnitude unit means a
change of a factor of 10 in the amplitude of
ground shaking.

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Richters Formula

He defined a reference value Ao

ML = logA - log Ao

A is the amplitude on the seismogram, Ao is the


amplitude observed for a reference event.

For Southern California

ML = logA - 2.48 + 2.76 x log(distance)

The distance is in kilometers and this formula


works for southern California.
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Wood-Anderson Seismometer

Richter also
tied his
formula to a
specific
seismic
instrument.

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Richters Magnitude Scale


Only valid for Southern California
earthquakes
Only valid for one specific type of
seismometer
Has not been used by professional
seismologists in decades
Is much abused by the press today

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Modern Seismic Magnitudes

Today seismologists use different seismic waves


to compute magnitudes

These waves have lower frequencies than those


used by Richter

These waves are generally recorded at distances of


1000s of kilometers instead of the 100s of
kilometers for the Richter scale

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Teleseismic MS and mb

The two most common modern magnitude


scales are:

MS, Surface-wave magnitude (Rayleigh Wave)

mb, Body-wave magnitude (P-wave)

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Magnitude Discrepancies

Ideally, you want the same value of


magnitude for any one earthquake from each
scale you develop, i.e.

MS = mb = ML

But this does not always happen:


Turkey 8/17/99: MS = 7.8, mb = 6.3
Taiwan 9/20/99: MS = 7.7, mb = 6.6

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Why Dont Magnitude Scales


Agree?

Simplest Answer:
Earthquakes are complicated physical
phenomena that are not well described by a
single number.
Can a thunderstorm be well described by one
number ? (No. It takes wind speed, rainfall,
lightning strikes, spatial area, etc.)

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Why Dont Magnitude Scales


Agree?

More Complicated Answers:

The distance correction for amplitudes depends on


geology.

Deep earthquakes do not generate large surface


waves - MS is biased low for deep earthquakes.

Some earthquakes last longer than others, even


though the peak amplitude is the same.

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Why Dont Magnitude Scales


Agree?

Most complicated reason:


Magnitude scales saturate
This means there is an upper limit to magnitude
no matter how large the earthquake is
For instance Ms (surface wave magnitude)
never gets above 8.2-8.3
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Example: mb Saturation

mb seldom gives
values above 6.7 - it
saturates.

mb must be
measured in the first
5 seconds - thats
the rule.

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Saturation

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What Causes Saturation?

The rupture process.


Small earthquakes are rupture small areas are relatively
enriched in short period signals.
Large earthquakes rupture large areas and are relatively
depleted in high frequencies.

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Are mb and Ms still useful?

YES!
Many (most) earthquakes are small enough that
saturation does not occur
Empirical relations between energy release and
mb and Ms exist
The ratio of mb to Ms can indicate whether a
given seismogram is from an earthquake or a
nuclear explosion (verification seismology)

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Is there anything better?

Yes, the seismic moment Mo


Invented in the 1960s to circumvent magnitude
limitations
Has physical units of energy (Nm, cal, J)
Is the product of three factors that indicate the
size of the earthquake:

Mo=(shearmodulus)x(rupturearea)x(slipoffset)

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Moment Magnitude, MW

To allow comparisons, we use moment


magnitude, which is calculated from the
seismic moment.
MW = 2 / 3 * log(Seismic Moment) - 10.73

Estimating MW takes more work than the


others, but its often the best measure of
size.
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Magnitude Summary

Magnitudeisameasureofgroundshakingamplitude.

Morethanonemagnitudescalesareusedtostudy
earthquakes.

Allmagnitudescaleshavethesamelogarithmicform.

Sincedifferentscalesusedifferentwavesanddifferent
periodvibrations,theydonotalwaysgivethesamevalue.

Magnitude
Local(Richter)
BodyWave
SurfaceWave
Moment

Symbol Wave
ML
mb
Ms
Mw

Period
SorSurfaceWave*
P
Rayleigh
RuptureArea,Slip

0.8s
1s
20s
100s1000s

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The Largest Earthquakes


MW is the appropriate choice for comparing
the largest events, it does not saturate.

1960 Chile

9.5

1964 Alaska

9.2

1952 Kamchatka 9.1


1965 Aleutians

9.0

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The largest earthquake ever


recorded by seismometers (the
1960 Chilean event with 9.5 Mw )
had a seismic moment equivalent
to the energy of 9 trillion kilotons
of TNT!

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