Is the message getting through?

I was interested to see the following entry in the “Corrections” column of yesterday’s Guardian.

A report on environmental pressure groups calling on governments to abandon new nuclear power stations and large waste dump projects referred to tremors in India ranging up to 6.3 on the Richter scale. Seismologists no longer use this scale, we should have said magnitude 6.3. Similarly, a Pass notes item referred to an earthquake of 8.9 on the Richter scale. To clarify: the “Richter scale”, the logarithmic magnitude scale, was defined in 1935 to measure earthquakes in California. It does not, however, work for large earthquakes (greater than magnitude 7) or ones where the epicentre is further than 600km from the point of measurement. It was superseded in 1979 by the more uniformly applicable moment magnitude (Mw) scale.

It seems that reiterating this message has not been entirely in vain. However, to be completely accurate, one should say that the Local Magnitude scale was defined in 1935, which then became referred to by journalists as the “Richter scale”, a term not normally used by seismologists except when talking to journalists, and then under duress.

You must be logged in to post a comment.