The largest earthquake ever experienced and recorded was the 9.5 magnitude earthquake in Valdivia, Chile, in 1960. The tremors that lasted for 10 minutes went down in history as the Great Chilean Earthquake.

According to the records of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the tremors of the 9.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Valdivia, Chile on May 22, 1960, were so severe that a survivor of the earthquake thought they had been subjected to a nuclear attack because of the Cold War.

So, is it possible to experience an earthquake larger than 9.5 on Earth?

Although the answer of scientists is ‘YES’, the probability of such a situatoccurringccur is quite low. For an earthquake larger than 9.5 to occur, a huge piece of the earth’s crust must break, that is, a fault that is both very deep and very long must move.

The existence of a fault that will create a magnitude 10 earthquake is unknown.

Speaking to Live Science, geologist Wendy Bohon said that there are not many places on Earth where this can happen. Bohon stated that an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.5 is the approximate upper limit that it can produce for our planet and that the probability of an earthquake with a magnitude of 10 is extremely low.

He states that the existence of a fault that will create a 10-magnitude earthquake on Earth is not known in the USGS and that if such a fault existed, it should encircle almost the entire planet.

The intensity of feeling the earthquake is independent of its magnitude.

Magnitude is a concept used to measure the energy released in an earthquake.

The concept of ‘intensity’ used to describe the effect of an earthquake is different from magnitude. Also, size does not indicate how strongly people felt about elt the concussion.

Scientists state that the intensity of people’s sense of earthquake will vary depending on their proximity to the epicenter and the ground they are on, regardless of the magnitude.

Different scales are used for earthquake magnitude

Different scales can be used to measure the magnitude of the earthquake. For example, Kandilli Observatory 7.4; The USGS announced it as 7.7.

The reason for this was that Kandilli Observatory initially explained the intensity of the earthquake according to the Richter Scale, while the USA used the moment magnitude (Mw) scale. Then, the Kandilli Observatory updated the magnitude of the earthquake to 7.7 Mw to correct the confusion.

The numbers after the comma can make a huge difference.

While it may seem numerically close between 7.4 and 7.7, each decimal digit of the measurement can make a huge difference as earthquakes get bigger. Because the scale is not linear but logarithmic, that is, it increases exponentially.

Bohon explained the exponential increase in earthquake magnitude with the example of spaghetti:

“If breaking one spaghetti wire is equivalent to a magnitude 5 earthquake, it would take 32 spaghetti strands to break the energy of a magnitude 6 earthquake. In this spaghetti scale, 1024 wires must be broken for a magnitude 7 earthquake, and 32 thousand 768 wires for an 8 magnitude earthquake.”

As seen in this example, the difference in energy between magnitude 7 and 8 earthquakes is much greater than the difference between magnitude 5 and 6 earthquakes. Therefore, there is a huge difference between declaring a 5.5 earthquake as 5.6 and declaring a 7.4 magnitude earthquake as 7.7.

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