Richter magnitudes Description Earthquake effects Frequency of occurrence
Less than 2.0 Micro Micro earthquakes, not felt. About 8,000 per day
2.0–2.9 Minor Generally not felt, but recorded. About 1,000 per day
3.0–3.9 Often felt, but rarely causes damage. 49,000 per year (est.)
4.0–4.9 Light Noticeable shaking of indoor items, rattling noises. Significant damage unlikely. 6,200 per year (est.)
5.0–5.9 Moderate Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions. At most slight damage to well-designed buildings. 800 per year
6.0–6.9 Strong Can be destructive in areas up to about 160 kilometres (100 mi) across in populated areas. 120 per year
7.0–7.9 Major Can cause serious damage over larger areas. 18 per year
8.0–8.9 Great Can cause serious damage in areas several hundred miles across. 1 per year
9.0–9.9 Devastating in areas several thousand miles across.
1 per 20 years
10.0+ Epic Never recorded; see below for equivalent seismic energy yield.
Extremely rare (Unknown)
It is a base-10 logarithmic scale obtained by calculating the logarithm of the combined horizontal amplitude (shaking amplitude) of the largest displacement from zero on a particular type of seismometer (Wood–Anderson torsion). So, for example, an earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger than one that measures 4.0.
(from "wikipedia")