A List of the Strongest and Most Powerful Earthquakes in Recorded History

Along the East Coast and in places like Washington D.C., Tuesday’s 5.8 magnitude earthquake was literally as big and powerful as it gets. It was strong enough to damage the Washington Monument, and leave people buzzing for days. While it was a massive quake for the D.C. area, but it doesn’t come close to sniffing the biggest earthquakes in history.

With that said, take a look at this list of the top 10 biggest earthquakes in history. Remember that both the Richter and Moment magnitude scales are logarithmic scales with a base of 10, meaning that any two-step jump in the scale, such as a magnitude 8 quake compared to a magnitude 6 quake, releases 1,000 times more energy.

Top 10 Biggest Earthquakes in Recorded History

*Note, when magnitude estimates were needed, the official numbers from the USGS were used.

1. 1960 Valdivia, Chile Earthquake – Magnitude 9.5: It’s the biggest earthquake known in recorded history. Tsunamis were strong enough to have 35 foot waves 10,000 kilometers away from the epicenter, hitting areas in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines. Thousands lost their lives and millions lost their homes.

2. 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska Earthquake – Magnitude 9.2: Major cities in Alaska such as Anchorage suffered major damage, and the earthquake spawned tsunamis and mudslides. Thanks to the relatively sparse population of the Alaskan expanse, only 128 lives were lost.

3. 2004 Indian Ocean; Sumatra, Indonesia Earthquake – Magnitude 9.1: The third largest earthquake in history is also the second most deadliest, killing over 225,000 individuals and displacing another 1.4 million, as the earthquake unleashed a devastating tsunami in 14 countries.

4. 2011 Tohoku Japan, Pacific Ocean Earthquake – Magnitude 9.0: Fresh in everyone’s mind is the crushing 2011 Japanese earthquake which killed at least 15,000 people, caused a massive tsunami, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and of course led to the Fukushima nuclear power plant melting down.

5. 1952 Kamchatka, Russia Earthquake – Magnitude 9.0: A relatively benign earthquake in terms of damage caused and lives lost, the 1952 Kamchatka quake was massive nonetheless. Tsunami waves reached across the entire Pacific ocean to Alaska and California.

6. 1868 Arica, Peru (Chile) Earthquake – Magnitude 9.0: Approximately 25,000 lives were taken by the 1868 Arica earthquake, which went on to unleash a tsunami and some 400 aftershocks in a two week period.

7. 1700 Cascadia, Pacific Ocean Earthquake – Magnitude 9.0: Striking just offshore of the Pacific Northwest, the quake sent tsunami waves as far as Japan.

8. 2010 Maule, Chile Earthquake – Magnitude 8.8: Over 500 people were killed in this recent Chilean monster earthquake which displaced nearly 1 million others. Damage to the Chilean economy was estimated at about $30 billion.

9. 1906 Ecuador-Colombia Earthquake – Magnitude 8.8: Off the coast of Ecuador, near Esmeraldas, this massive earthquake did the most damage to Colombia, where at least 500 lives were lost.

10. 1833 Sumatra Earthquake – Magnitude 8.8: There are not reliable reports available for this earthquake in terms of loss of life or damage caused, but a massive tsunami resulted and severe causalities likely would have ensued.


US Geological Survey, CNN.Com

This article was first published by Jake Emen on Yahoo News on August 25, 2011