What Are The 5 Largest Earthquakes Ever Recorded?

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If you have ever experienced a powerful earthquake, you know how terrifying it can be. The house (or whatever building you are in) starts shaking, stuff is falling on the floor and for a split second you are clueless why this is happening.

After a few seconds, it hits you, it’s an earthquake!

An earthquake is the shaking of the surface of the planet resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere. This release of energy is what causes the surface to tremble.

There is no warning as to when an earthquake will strike. The only thing scientists can do is record how powerful the earthquake actually is.

There is also no reason to believe this will change in the foreseeable future. The only thing that can be done is predicting that an earthquake will occur in a specific region in a specific amount of time (years that is).

Earthquakes are measured by the Richter scale, a scale devised in 1935 by American seismologists Charles F. Richter and Beno Gutenberg, measuring the impact of an earthquake by 0-10.

Richter scale explanation

As you can see, a 10 earthquake is the highest on the scale, and we are lucky this has never happened in the past, even though some have come close.

So what are the 5 largest earthquakes ever recorded?

Here is an overview:

5. Kamchatka, Russia, 4 November 1952 (9.0)

The Kamchatka region in Russia which is located on the east side of Russia, had been hit by great earthquakes a couple of times in the past. These happened in 1737 and 1923.

Each time the earthquake was followed by a massive tsunami, destroying everything in its path on land and resulting in many casualties.

Here you can see all the earthquakes recorded in Russia since the year 1900:

Earthquakes in Russia in 1900's

It’s obvious that the Kamchatka region is very prone to earthquakes, as most earthquakes in Russia are happening there.

In 1953, the largest earthquake in the region happened at 4:58 am local time and had a magnitude of 9.0, making it the 5th largest earthquake ever recorded.

Because this particular earthquake was so strong, the tsunami that it created reached all the way to Alaska, Chile and New Zealand.

4.  Sendai, Japan, 11 March 2011 (9.0)

A fairly recent severe earthquake was the 2011 earthquake that occurred off the coast of Japan, followed by an immense tsunami.

If you haven’t seen any of the footage yet, please check this video to understand the power the tsunami had and how it wiped away entire villages:

The earthquake itself had a magnitude of 9.0-9.1 making it the 4th biggest earthquake ever recorded.

3. Sumatra, Indonesia, 26 December 2004 (9.1)

This earthquake near Sumatra Indonesia occurred on December 26, hence it’s also referred to as the boxing day earthquake and tsunami.

Waves of up to 30 meters high crashed into the land of 14 countries following the severe earthquake causing massive tsunamis.

Sumatra earthquake damage

227,898 people lost their lives following the tsunamis and this makes it no surprise that it’s been one of the most devastating natural disasters ever recorded in history.

Because of the magnitude of 9.1, it is the 3rd biggest earthquake ever recorded in history.

2. Prince William Sound, Alaska, 28 March 1964 (9.2)

Back in 1964, the great Alaskan Earthquake, also referred to as the Good Friday Earthquake occurred around occurred at 5:36 PM AKST in South-Central Alaska.

The earthquake lasted between 4 and 5 minutes and massive tsunamis and landslides caused 131 casualties.

great alaskan earthquake damage

Tsunami waves were hitting land in over 20 countries including Peru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Mexico, and Antarctica.

It’s the biggest Earthquake to ever been recorded in North-America and with a magnitude of 9.2 it’s the second biggest earthquake to have ever been recorded worldwide.

1. Valdivia, Chile, 22 May 1960 (9.5)

The 1960 Valdivia earthquake or the Great Chilean earthquake occurred in Chile at around 3:15 pm and lasted for nearly 10 minutes.

The earthquake was followed by a large number of tsunamis that hit the Chilean coastline, but the biggest tsunami actually ran all across the pacific, devastating the town of Hilo, Hawaii, and waves of over 10 meters high were recorded 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) from the epicenter, and as far away as Japan and the Philippines.

hilo hawaii destruction

About 38 hours after the earthquake, an active volcano called the the Cordón Caulle erupted.

With a magnitude of 9.5 it’s the biggest earthquake ever been recorded in history.

Earthquakes are a massive force of nature, and the tsunamis that they mostly create can cause the lives of thousands of people living near the coastline.

Because of the fact that scientist cannot predict when or where an earthquake will exactly happen, it’s one of the most dangerous natural events that can happen on planet earth.

All we can do is prepare ourselves in case we live in an area prone to earthquakes or near coastlines.

So can an earthquake with a magnitude of 10 happen?

Unfortunately, there are theories such as the one of the Tohoku University in Japan that believe it’s possible.

Let’s just hope and pray this theory will never be proven to be correct.

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