What’s the difference between 7.2- and 7.0-magnitude earthquakes in Haiti?

Just a fraction on the measurement scale makes a big difference

People gather outside the Petit Pas Hotel, destroyed by the earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday, with the epicenter about 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the US Geological Survey said. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)
People gather outside the Petit Pas Hotel, destroyed by the earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday, with the epicenter about 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the US Geological Survey said. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The earthquake that struck Haiti over the weekend measured in at 7.2, slightly higher than the 7.0 that did unspeakable damage to the country in 2010.

But while it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a difference on the measurement scale, how much of a difference does .2 make, in reality?

As it turns out, quite a bit, according to Science magazine.

When measuring an earthquake, adding 1 to the measurement increases the level of shaking by 10 times.

When doing the measurement fractionally, the shaking increases by 1.259, or 26% more. If an earthquake increases by .3, it essentially will double in the level of shaking.

With that in mind, the earthquake that hit Haiti over the weekend had 52% more when it comes to the level of shaking than the one in 2010 that killed roughly 250,000 people and did around $8 billion in damage.

It should be said that the epicenter of Saturday’s earthquake was 78 miles west of Port-au-Prince, while the epicenter in 2010 was 16 miles away from the Haitian capital.

According to CNN, 6.5 million people lived within 50 miles of the epicenter in 2010, while initial calculations show 2.5 million people living within the epicenter of the latest earthquake in Haiti.

Regardless, relief organizations and humanitarian efforts will pour back into Haiti once again, even as ramifications are still being felt from what happened in 2010.

Having another earthquake that caused 52% more shaking than in 2010 might require even greater relief needs.


About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.