What to know about the 4.4 magnitude earthquake that shook Georgia

Understanding the Richter scale

An early morning earthquake woke many in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, registering 4.4 on the Richter scale.

But what does that mean? What is a Richter scale?

Charles F. Richter, of the California Institute of Technology, developed the scale in 1935. The Richter scale is used to rate an earthquake’s magnitude — the amount of energy it released.

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The Richter scale has no lower limit and no maximum, the Associated Press reports. It's a "logarithmic" scale, which means that each one-point increase on the scale represents a 10-fold increase in the magnitude of the quake.

As Scholastic.com explains: “An earthquake registering 2.0 on the Richter scale is 10 times stronger than a quake registering 1.0. A quake registering 3.0 is 10 X 10 or 100 times stronger than a quake registering 1.0 A 4.0 is 10 X 10 X 10 or 1,000 times greater than 1.0 and so on.”

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Earthquake intensity

Minor: 2.5 or lower on the Richter scale. It is seldom felt, but can be recorded by a seismograph.

Light: 2.5 to 5.4. These are often felt, but usually cause only minor damage

Moderate: 5.5 to 6.0. Buildings might be slightly damaged

Strong: 6.1 to 6.9. Can cause a lot of damage

Major: 7.0 to 7.9. A major earthquake will likely cause serious damage

Great: 8.0 or higher. An earthquake of this magnitude can destroy communities near its epicenter.

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