With the recent earthquake felt in Cebu, Philippines, I have notice the term “magnitude” and “intensity” are easily misunderstood.
Sometimes people talks about intensity were in fact they actually meant magnitude (and vice-versa).
Terms are interchanged.
This article will clarify the difference between magnitude and intensity.
Magnitude vs Intensity
Magnitude is the unit of measurement of how much energy is released of the earthquake’s point of origin.
Intensity on the other hand is the varying degree of how much we felt depending on where we are located with respect to the earthquake’s origin.
Here’s an easy illustration.
The earthquake’s magnitude, in this example, is 5.0. However, if you are far from the earthquake’s origin, you feel a slight vibration as compared to those who are near it. That is the intensity.
People near the center may feel the strong quake, but the strength of the quake will diminish as you move away from the center. This is why the magnitude value stays the same, but intensity varies depending on what location you are relative to the center.