One Man's Alaska

1964 Alaska earthquake - One million times more powerful

September 21, 2010

I did a little research and learned that the 1964 Alaska earthquake was over 1,000,000 times more powerful than yesterday's 4.9 magnitude Anchorage earthquake. I've been in several earthquakes since I moved to Alaska this spring, with the most powerful one being a 5.2 just down the road from Wasilla, and I have to say, I can't even begin to imagine an earthquake that was one million times more powerful than that.

The thing about yesterday's earthquake was that it lasted for just a few moments, while the 1964 Alaska earthquake was a 9.2 magnitude earthquake that lasted for over five minutes. That had to be incredible ... you seriously do not want to be in a building when a long 5.x earthquake hits, so I just can't imagine "one million times more energy." I can only imagine that at some point you have to wonder if and when it's going to stop.

One more note: I also learned that scientists don't really use the Richter Scale any more. It wasn't created to handle very powerful earthquakes, so a new scale named the "Moment Magnitude Scale" was developed to replace it. For earthquakes in the 4.x and 5.x range the Moment Magnitude Scale is nearly identical to the Richter Scale, but the Moment Magnitude Scale handles much larger values properly.

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