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Mercalli Intensity Scale

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The Mercalli Intensity Scale is a semi-quantitative linear scale to measure the intensity of earthquakes by examining the damage rather than measure their magnitude. It was conceived by Italian volcanologist Giuseppe Mercalli[?] in 1902, and was in general use before in 1935 the Richter scale was studied.

It considers the practical effects that a seismic event causes on the infrastructures and houses, as classifiable in 12 possible situations.

  • (I) - Not felt except by a very few under especially favourable conditions.

  • (II) - Felt only by a few persons at rest, especially on upper floors of buildings. Delicately suspended objects may swing.

  • (III) - Felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on the upper floors of buildings. Many do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibration similar to the passing of a truck. Duration estimated.

  • (IV) - Felt indoors by many, outdoors by few during the day. At night, some awakened. Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sound. Sensation like heavy truck striking building. Standing motor cars rocked noticeably.

  • (V) - Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes and windows broken. Unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop.

  • (VI) - Felt by all; many frightened and run outdoors, walk unsteadily. Windows, dishes, glassware broken... books off shelves... some heavy furniture moved or overturned; a few instances of fallen plaster. Damage slight.

  • (VII) - Difficult to stand... furniture broken..damage negligible in building of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken. Noticed by persons driving motor cars.

  • (VIII) - Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture moved.

  • (IX) - General panic[?]... damage considerable in specially designed structures, well designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.

  • (X) - Some well built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.

  • (XI) - Few, if any (masonry) structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed. Rails bent greatly.

  • (XII) - Damage total. Lines of sight and level distorted. Objects thrown into the air.

Information from The Severity of an earthquake pamphlet[?] of the U.S. Geological Survey.

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