Japan Meteorological Agency seismic intensity scale

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The Japan Meteorological Agency seismic intensity scale is a seismic scale used in Japan and Taiwan to measure the intensity of earthquakes. It is measured in units of shindo (震度?, seismic intensity, "degree of shaking"). Unlike magnitude measures such as the Moment Magnitude Scale (Mw), and the earlier Richter magnitude scale,[1] which attempt to describe the energy released by the earthquake, the JMA scale describes the degree of shaking at various points on the Earth's surface, and is analogous to the Mercalli intensity scale. The intensity of an earthquake is not totally determined by its magnitude, but varies with event's depth, and distance from the event; for example, a quake may be described as "shindo 4 in Tokyo, shindo 3 in Yokohama, shindo 2 in Shizuoka".

The JMA operates a network of 180 seismographs and 627 seismic intensity meters[2][3] and provides real-time earthquake reports to the media and on the Internet.[4]


Japan experiences about 400[5] earthquakes every day, although the vast majority are shindo scale "0" or less and detectable only using specialist apparatus.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) first assigned a four-stage Shindo in 1884, with the levels: 微 (faint), 弱 (weak), 強 (strong), and 烈 (violent).

In 1898 this scale was changed to a numerical system, assigning earthquakes levels 0–7.

In 1908, the levels on this scale were given descriptions, and earthquakes were assigned levels based on their perceived effect on people. This scale was widely used during the Meiji period, and revised during the Shōwa period with the descriptions seeing an overhaul.

Following the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995, the first time an earthquake had received the highest rating of 7 on the scale, levels 5 and 6 were divided in two, giving a total of 10 levels of earthquake: 0–4, lower/upper 5 (5弱、5強, "weak 5"/"strong 5"), lower/upper 6 (6弱、6強, "weak 6"/"strong 6") and 7.

The Shindo scale has been used in Japan from 1996 without change.[6][7]

Scale explanation

The JMA Scale runs from 0 to 7, with 7 being the strongest. The Mercalli intensity scale is sometimes used together with the Shindo; however this is not usual practice in Japan. Real-time earthquake reports are calculated automatically from measurements of ground acceleration. The JMA reports the earthquake level based on the ground acceleration, measured automatically with seismic intensity meters. There is no simple and linear relationship between Shindo Number and peak ground acceleration as Shindo Number also depend on duration,[8][9][10] so the values of the table below should only be regarded as an approximate orientation.

Shindo scale [11]
Magnitude-Shindo Number (Shindo Number in Japanese) / Meter reading Effects on people Indoor situations Outdoor situations Residences Other buildings Lifelines Ground and slopes Peak ground acceleration[12] Approximate Equivalent Rating on Mercalli Scale
0 (0) / 0–0.4 Not felt by all or most people. Indoor objects will not shake. Buildings will not receive damage. Less than 0.008 m/s² I
1 (1) / 0.5–1.4 Felt by only some people indoors. Objects may swing/rattle very slightly. Upper sections of multi-story buildings may feel the earthquake. 0.008–0.025 m/s² I-II
2 (2) / 1.5–2.4 Felt by many to most people indoors. Some people awake. Hanging objects such as lamps swing slightly. Homes and apartment buildings will shake, but will receive no damage. No buildings receive damage. 0.025–0.08 m/s² II-IV
3 (3) / 2.5–3.4 Felt by most to all people indoors. Some people are frightened. Objects inside rattle noticeably and can fall off tables. Electric wires swing slightly. People can feel it outdoors. Houses may shake strongly. Less earthquake-resistant houses can receive slight damage. Buildings may receive slight damage if not earthquake-resistant. None to very light damage to earthquake-resistant and normal buildings. No services are affected. 0.08–0.25 m/s² III-IV
4 (4) / 3.5–4.4 Many people are frightened. Some people try to escape from danger. Most sleeping people awake. Hanging objects swing considerably and dishes in a cupboard rattle. Unstable ornaments fall occasionally. Very loud noises. Electric wires swing considerably. People outside can notice the tremor. Less earthquake-resistant homes can suffer slight damage. Most homes shake strongly and small cracks may appear. The entirety of apartment buildings will shake. Other buildings can receive slight damage. Earthquake-resistant structures will survive, most likely without damage. Electricity may go out shortly. No landslides or cracks occur. 0.25–0.80 m/s² V-VII
5-lower (5弱) / 4.5–4.9 Most people try to escape from danger by running outside. Some people find it difficult to move. Hanging objects swing violently. Most unstable items fall. Dishes in a cupboard and books fall and furniture moves. People notice electric-light poles swing. Occasionally, windowpanes are broken and fall, unreinforced concrete-block walls collapse, and roads suffer damage. Less earthquake-resistant homes and apartments suffer damage to walls and pillars. Cracks are formed in walls of less earthquake-resistant buildings. Normal and earthquake resistant structures receive slight damage. A safety device can cut off the gas service in some residences. Sometimes, water pipes are damaged and water service is interrupted. Electricity can be interrupted. Cracks may appear in soft ground, and rockfalls and small slope failures take place. 0.80–1.40 m/s² V-VIII
5-upper (5強) / 5.0–5.4 Many people are considerably frightened and find it difficult to move. Most dishes in a cupboard and most books on a bookshelf fall. Occasionally, a TV set on a rack falls, heavy furniture such as a chest of drawers fall, sliding doors slip out of their groove and the deformation of door frames makes it impossible to open doors. Unreinforced concrete-block walls can collapse and tombstones overturn. Many automobiles stop because it becomes difficult to drive from the shaking. Poorly installed vending machines can fall. Less earthquake-resistant homes and apartments suffer heavy/significant damage to walls and pillars and can lean. Medium to large cracks are formed in walls. Crossbeams and pillars of less earthquake-resistant buildings and even highly earthquake-resistant buildings also have cracks. Gas pipes and water mains are damaged. (Gas service and/or water service are interrupted in some regions.) Cracks may appear in soft ground. Rockfalls and small slope failures would take place. 1.40–2.50 m/s² VI-IX
6-lower (6弱) / 5.5–5.9 Difficult to keep standing. A lot of heavy and unfixed furniture moves and falls. It is impossible to open the door in many cases. All objects will shake violently. Strongly and severely felt outside. Light posts swing, and electric poles can fall down, causing fires. Less earthquake-resistant houses collapse and even walls and pillars of other homes are damaged. Apartment buildings can collapse by floors falling down onto each other. Less earthquake-resistant buildings easily receive heavy damage and may be destroyed. Even highly earthquake-resistant buildings have large cracks in walls and will be moderately damaged, at least. In some buildings, wall tiles and windowpanes are damaged and fall. Gas pipes and/or water mains will be damaged. Gas, water and electricity are interrupted. Small to medium cracks appear in the ground, and larger landslides take place. 2.50–3.15 m/s² VIII-X
6-upper (6強) / 6.0–6.4 Impossible to keep standing and to move without crawling. Most heavy and unfixed furniture moves and becomes displaced. Trees can fall down due to violent shaking. Bridges and roads suffer moderate to severe damage. Less earthquake-resistant houses will collapse or be severely damaged. In some cases, highly earthquake-resistant residences are heavily damaged. Multi-story apartment buildings will fall down partially or completely. Many walls collapse, or at least are severely damaged. Some less earthquake-resistant buildings collapse. Even highly earthquake-resistant buildings suffer severe damage. Occasionally, gas and water mains are damaged. (Electrical service is interrupted. Occasionally, gas and water service are interrupted over a large area.) Cracks can appear in the ground, and landslides take place. 3.15–4.00 m/s² IX-X
7 (7) / 6.5 and up Thrown by the shaking and impossible to move at will. Most furniture moves to a large extent and some jumps up. In most buildings, wall tiles and windowpanes are damaged and fall. In some cases, reinforced concrete-block walls collapse. Most or all residences collapse or receive severe damage, no matter how earthquake-resistant they are. Most or all buildings (even earthquake-resistant ones) suffer severe damage. Electrical, gas and water service are interrupted. The ground is considerably distorted by large cracks and fissures, and slope failures and landslides take place, which can change topographic features. Greater than 4 m/s² X-XII

Comparison with other seismic scales

From year 1967 to 1970, 106 JMA offices observe seismic scales in both the JMA Shindo scale and Medvedev–Sponheuer–Karnik scale (MSK scale) simultaneously. The result of simultaneous observations shows that the JMA Shindo scale is more suitable in observing low seismic scale earthquakes whereas the MSK scale being more suitable to measure high seismic scale earthquakes. The research also suggested that, by letting JMA Shindo scale as J and MSK scale as M, for small earthquake with JMA Shindo scale up to 3, the relative MSK scale can be found by having M=1.5J+1.5 whereas for larger earthquake, M=1.5J+0.75.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Measuring the Size of an Earthquake". 
  2. ^ "気象庁 – 震度観測点(全国)". 
  3. ^ The Daily Yomiuri, August 23, 2009, p. 2
  4. ^ "Japan Meteorological Agency – Earthquake Information". 
  5. ^ http://www.hinet.bosai.go.jp/about_earthquake/part1.htm Japanese web site; official data of Shindo 1–7 in 1997 to 2006 is 32,244 times, and Shindo 1–3 is 4 to 5 times in a day. Web site of 防災科学技術研究所;National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention=NIED/ Although none of web site is available for basis of 400 times in a day, but 400 times is well told and well assumable number with this data.
  6. ^ 気象庁震度階級(明治17年~昭和23年) in Japanese
  7. ^ 震度 in Japanese
  8. ^ Calculation method of seismic intensity (Japanese)
  9. ^ "Seismic intensity and acceleration (Japanese)". 
  10. ^ Agency, 気象庁 Japan Meteorological. "気象庁 – 計測震度の算出方法". 
  11. ^ "JMA seismic intensity scale". 
  12. ^ "The Great Hanshin Earthquake Disaster". 9 September 2006. 
  13. ^ 広野卓蔵; 佐藤馨 (1971). "MSK震度と気象庁震度の比較" (PDF). 気象研究所研究報告 (in Japanese). 気象庁気象研究所. 22: 177–193. 

External links

  • Up dating information of earth earthquakes in Japan in last 7 days, Japanese language. Circled number is Shindo(震度) Number. Format is Hypocenter of earthquakes, location, north latitude, east longitude and depth.
  • JMA Seismic Intensity Scale in both Japanese and English language.
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