Widely used measure of the magnitude of an earthquake, introduced in 1935 by U.S. seismologists Beno Gutenberg (1889–1960) and Charles F. Richter (1900–1985). The scale is logarithmic, so that each increase of one unit represents a 10-fold increase in magnitude (amplitude of seismic waves). The magnitude is then translated into energy released. Earthquakes that are fainter than the ones originally chosen to define magnitude zero are accommodated by using negative numbers. Though the scale has no theoretical upper limit, the most severe earthquakes have not exceeded a scale value of 9. The moment magnitude scale, in use since 1993, is more accurate for large earthquakes; it takes into account the amount of fault slippage, the size of the area ruptured, and the nature of the materials that faulted.
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