Journal of Seismology

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 413–428 | Cite as

The comparison of macroseismic intensity scales

  • Roger M. W. Musson
  • Gottfried Grünthal
  • Max Stucchi
Original article


The number of different macroseismic scales that have been used to express earthquake shaking in the course of the last 200 years is not known; it may reach three figures. The number of important scales that have been widely adopted is much smaller, perhaps about eight, not counting minor variants. Where data sets exist that are expressed in different scales, it is often necessary to establish some sort of equivalence between them, although best practice would be to reassign intensity values rather than convert them. This is particularly true because difference between workers in assigning intensity is often greater than differences between the scales themselves, particularly in cases where one scale may not be very well defined. The extent to which a scale guides the user to arrive at a correct assessment of the intensity is a measure of the quality of the scale. There are a number of reasons why one should prefer one scale to another for routine use, and some of these tend in different directions. If a scale has many tests (diagnostics) for each degree, it is more likely that the scale can be applied in any case that comes to hand, but if the diagnostics are so numerous that they include ones that do not accurately indicate any one intensity level, then the use of the scale will tend to produce false values. The purpose of this paper is chiefly to discuss in a general way the principles involved in the analysis of intensity scales. Conversions from different scales to the European Macroseismic Scale are discussed.


Intensity Intensity scales Macroseismology History of seismology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger M. W. Musson
    • 1
  • Gottfried Grünthal
    • 2
  • Max Stucchi
    • 3
  1. 1.British Geological SurveyEdinburghUK
  2. 2.GFZ German Research Centre for GeosciencesPotsdamGermany
  3. 3.INGV MilanoMilanItaly

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