How big is a 7.9 magnitude earthquake?

It’s been a rough morning for the citizens of Alaska. The east coast of the state was hit by a massive earthquake early January 23rd. Thousands of citizens were evacuated amid the chaos. A small tsunami was generated by the force, leading to further confusion and evacuations. All told, the earthquake clocked in at a whopping 7.9 on the Richter scale. But how big is that really?

According to the Richter scale, which is used to measure the severity of earthquakes, a 7.9 is no joke. It qualifies as a major event, with widespread damage. Tremors were felt as far away as Seattle and Vancouver, where citizens awoke in a state of considerable confusion. The Richter scale measures the energy released by an earthquake, and a 7.9 quake is equal to an explosion of nearly 6,270,000 tons of TNT.

Anything that reaches 8.0 or higher on the Richter scale is considered a devastating event, capable of leveling an entire epicenter. To give some context, the biggest earthquake ever recorded was a 9.5 in southern Chile in 1960. About 2,000,000 people were left homeless and damage incurred would have cost anywhere from $3 billion to $6 billion by today’s standards. false

While a 7.9 is clearly no laughing matter, things look significantly less grim in Alaska. No major damage has been reported, and most citizens were alerted to the oncoming incident by social media or text message shortly before it took place. Our thoughts are with Alaskan citizens during what must be a truly scary time. Stay strong, and stay safe!