Difference Between Richter Scale and Mercalli Scale

Experts use a variety of equipment to assess the seismic activity of the earth and quantify the severity of the event when the earthquake occurs (probably the most severe of all-natural disasters). Scales such as Richter and Mercalli are used to provide the public understanding and create enhanced predictions and warning actions in this regard. Scientists have discovered methods for determining the magnitude of earthquakes.

Richter Scale vs Mercalli Scale

The main difference between Richter Scale and Mercalli Scale is that the Mercalli scale characterizes an earthquake’s intensity based on its observed consequences, whereas the Richter scale describes the size of an earthquake by measuring the seismic waves that create it. Different uses and measuring methodologies are used by the two scales.

Richter Scale and Mercalli Scale

The Richter scale was created in 1935 by Charles Richter and his colleague Beno Gutenberg, and it is still the most widely used scale in earthquake measurement today. It was originally created to compare the magnitude of multiple earthquakes in a specific area of California. Later, it was modified for usage all over the world. The Richter scale is more objective, but the Mercalli scale is personal.

The Mercalli scale, which dates back to the 19th century, is even older. It got its name from changes made to it by an Italian volcanologist named Giuseppe Mercalli in the 1890s. Coincidentally, it was Charles Richter who revised the scale to the MMI scale, also known as the Modified Mercalli scale, which is still in use today.

Comparison Table Between Richter Scale and Mercalli Scale

Parameters of Comparison  Richter Scale Mercalli Scale
DescriptionThe Richter scale was created to give a single value to the amount of energy generated during an earthquake.

The Mercalli Scale provides a numerical value to an earthquake’s effects.
Developed in19351884 and 1906
Developed byCharles Francis Richter Giuseppe Mercalli
MeasureThe Richter scale quantifies the seismic activity magnitude of an earthquake and other numerically quantifiable regions.
The Mercalli scale is used to determine the magnitude of an earthquake.
Measuring ToolObservation

What is Richter Scale?

Charles Richter created the Richter Magnitude Scale in 1935. It was originally designed to compare the size of different earthquakes in a certain area of California using the Wood-Anderson torsion seismograph. He eventually modified the scale to be able to measure the size of earthquakes all around the world. A seismograph measures the energy generated by an earthquake on the Richter Scale.

Calculating the logarithm of the amplitude of waves recorded by the seismograph yields a base-10 logarithmic scale. Most contemporary earthquakes are measured on the Richter scale, which allows scientists to compare the strength of earthquakes at different locations. The Richter scale is a scientific measurement method based on the magnitude of an earthquake, which allows professionals to more accurately compare the intensity of earthquakes at different times and in different parts of the world or even parts of the world.

When comparing the readings, a VIII on the Mercalli scale is roughly equivalent to a 6 or 7 on the Richter scale, suggesting that chimneys are collapsing and structures are being damaged. The Richter scale spans from 2.0 to 10.0, or perhaps greater, but no such event has ever been documented. The scale’s consistency changes depending on the distance from the epicenter, but the quake as a whole is assigned a single number.

What is Mercalli Scale?

The seismic metric is the Mercalli intensity scale. It assigns a number to an earthquake ranging from I to XII, based on its consequences. The Richter scale measures the energy produced during an earthquake, while the Mercalli scale assesses the amount of damage that an earthquake can cause.

On a scale from I (not felt) to XII (complete devastation), the Mercalli scale measures the impacts of an earthquake on the Earth’s surface, humans, natural items, and man-made buildings.” The Mercalli Intensity Scale assesses an earthquake’s severity by looking at how it affects people, the environment, and the earth’s surface.

The Mercalli Intensity Scale is only helpful for evaluating earthquakes in populated regions, and it is not regarded especially scientific because witnesses’ accounts may differ, and the damage produced may not exactly represent the magnitude of an earthquake. However, it is used to compare the damage produced by earthquakes in various locations.

Main Differences Between Richter Scale and Mercalli Scale

  1. The Richter scale was created to provide a single value to the amount of energy generated during an earthquake, whereas the Mercalli Scale provides a number to the magnitude of an earthquake’s effects.
  2. The Richter Scale was developed in 1935, whereas the Mercalli Scale was developed in 1884 and 1906.
  3. The Richter Scale was developed by Charles Francis Richter, whereas the Mercalli Scale was developed by Giuseppe Mercalli.
  4. The Richter scale assesses the magnitude of the seismic event of an earthquake and other numerically quantifiable regions, whereas the Mercalli scale is used to assess the magnitude of an earthquake.
  5. The measuring tool of the Richter scale is observation, whereas the measuring tool of Mercalli is Seismograph.


The Mercalli scale is less useful than the Richter scale because of its subjectivity against Richter’s objectivity. The Richter scale has a range of values from 2.0 to 10.0, whereas the Mercalli scale has a range of values from I to XII. The Richter scale is significantly more widely used than the Mercalli scale, which is mainly based on eyewitness claims for damage and loss.

Since earthquakes can be destructive, humans seek a mechanism to predict when and where earthquakes will occur. The seismograph was born to help solve this problem. Any equipment that analyzes ground motion, including seismic waves caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other seismic sources, is called a seismograph.

The Mercalli scale isn’t as excellent at detecting earthquakes, especially in rural areas where damage and strength aren’t readily apparent. Because it is based on eyewitness reports of the quake’s loss and damage, the scale is considered less scientific.


  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00288306.1966.10420201
  2. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/7562237/
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