March 27, 2014 marked half a century since the second largest earthquake recorded since 1900 – and the largest to strike in the United States.
This magnitude 9.2 (M9.2) event, which struck in Prince William Sound, caused the earth to shake for around four and a half minutes and generated the second largest tsunami ever recorded.
Thanks to a combination of features (not least the low population density) this quake killed remarkably few people – just 131 deaths, mostly resulting from the tsunami.
The anniversary of this so-called ‘megathrust’ event, which had a magnitude of 9.2, was marked by a flurry of fascinating information about the earthquake, its causes and its effects. But it begs a number of questions about other large earthquakes. The largest on the USGS list is that in Chile in 1960 which reached M9.5; in more recent times Sumatra’s Boxing Day earthquake of 2004 (M9.2) and the 2011 Honshu earthquake (M9.1) have killed thousands and made headlines worldwide – though others (such as an M8.8 off Chile in 2010) have passed largely unnoticed.
Magnitude of Historic Earthquakes: How Big Were The Biggest Quakes?