If you visit USGS earthquakes listing, you get 3 points of information for each earthquake: Location, depth, magnitude. My question is, is there a way to approximate how big of an area is affected? Like if an earthquake happens 20km from San Francisco, how strong does it have to be for someone in SF to be able to feel it?

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  • $\begingroup$ The inverse square law maybe. $\endgroup$ – John Aug 15 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ There is a relationship between the magnitude of the earthquake and the length of the fault rupture. See, for instance: usgs.gov/faqs/… . There's some more information here: earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/mag-intensity that includes some simple equations you might find interesting. $\endgroup$ – rchuso Aug 15 at 19:40

No, there isn't, because the area affected depends on so many factors, some of them unknowable. Magnitude, cause, depth, geology (which may be very variable in different parts of the area) etc. Besides which, the easiest way to tell which areas are affected is to monitor reports from observers. In the final analysis, the data that aid agencies want to know is which areas ARE affected rather than which might theoretically be affected if all relevant factors were known, which they rarely will be.


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