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Why Two Earthquakes Of A Similar Magnitude Can Feel So Different




A 6.4 magnitude quake near Ridgecrest Thursday, July 4 caused a crack to open up in the desert, crossing Highway 178 near Trona Road.
A 6.4 magnitude quake near Ridgecrest Thursday, July 4 caused a crack to open up in the desert, crossing Highway 178 near Trona Road.
Emily Guerin/KPCC/LAist

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On July 4th, Southern California was hit by an earthquake with a 6.4 magnitude, which was quickly followed by a magnitude 7.1 a day later. 

These were the biggest earthquakes, when measured by magnitude, in twenty years. 

But locals who felt the tremblors report a variety of experiences–to some, the first one felt more intense despite being smaller in magnitude. 

And for Southern Californians who remember the 1994 Northridge quake, which had a magnitude of  6.7 , it is difficult to believe that the quakes felt last week were “bigger” in regards to the intensity that was felt. 

Larry sits down with a seismologist to help us understand why two earthquakes of a similar magnitude can present different levels of intensity.

We also want to hear from you if you remember the Northridge earthquake or felt the tremors last week. We’re at 866-893-KPCC.

Guest: 

Egill Hauksson, research professor of geophysics at Caltech