Contact | RSS | EN | DE | EL | ES | FR | IT | RU

How long do earthquakes last?

Generally, most earthquakes last only few seconds. The larger the quake, the longer it may last. Quakes around magnitudes 5-6 often last up to 30 seconds. The very largest quakes can produce shaking that lasts several minutes, but these are fortunately extremely rare.
Aftershocks often continue for many weeks, months or even years after larger earthquakes. During extreme earthquakes (magnitude 8+), aftershocks are so common and frequent in the hours following the quake, that they produce a near-continuous shaking on the surface near the epicenter.

Actually, there are two ways to speak about the duration of an earthquake. The above refers to the shaking perceived on the ground and is what most people are interested in. A second, more scientific definition of duration would the time it takes the underground fault to rupture along its affected surface during the quake. It starts to break at a point and then the rupture propagates along the fault surface at a velocity of approx. 2 kilometers per second. This will give a much shorter value as at this speed, even distances of several 100 km for magnitude 8-9 quakes are covered in typically less than a minute. However, shaking or ground vibration lasts longer, such as waves on a water surface hit by a stone continue for some time even after the stone has sunken under the water.
The shaking induced by the rupture along the fault line is propagating from all points along this fault surface radially in all directions and hits the ground in a complex pattern.
Try our free app!
Volcanoes & Earthquakes - new app for Android
Android | iOS version

Support us - Help us upgrade our services!

We truly love working to bring you the latest volcano and earthquake data from around the world. Maintaining our website and our free apps does require, however, considerable time and resources.
We need financing to increase hard- and software capacity as well as support our editor team. We're aiming to achieve uninterrupted service wherever an earthquake or volcano eruption unfolds, and your donations can make it happen! Every donation will be highly appreciated. If you find the information useful and would like to support our team in integrating further features, write great content, and in upgrading our soft- and hardware, please make a donation (PayPal or Online credit card payment).

Planned features:
  • Improved multilanguage support
  • Tsunami alerts
  • Faster responsiveness
Thanks to your past donations, these features have been added recently:
  • Design upgrade
  • Detailed quake stats
  • Additional seismic data sources
Download and Upgrade the Volcanoes & Earthquakes app to get one of the fastest seismic and volcano alerts online:
Android | IOS
Thank you!
Sources: VolcanoDiscovery / VolcanoAdventures and other sources as noted.
Use of material: Most text and images on our websites are owned by us. Re-use is generally not permitted without authorization. Contact us for licensing rights.
Volcanoes & Earthquakes
VolcanoDiscovery Home
Volcanoes | Earthquakes | Photos | Volcano News | App
Adventure & Study Travel
Tours to Volcanoes and Volcanic Areas: walking tours, photo tours, study tours
Tours & Dates | FAQ | About us
Get our newsletter!
Company info
Contact | Legal info | Terms & conditions
Follow us
Follow us on facebook Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Twitter Visit our Youtube channel
EN | DE | EL | ES | FR | IT | RU
VolcanoDiscovery GmbH, Germany, Reg. nr.: HRB 103744, EU Tax Id: DE 310 395 322 owned and created by
Dr. Tom Pfeiffer, volcanologist, volcano photographer, tour organizer member of
IAVCEI
Volcanological Society
Ecotourism Greece
Insured by R+V
VolcanoDiscovery © 2004- All Rights Reserved | Privacy - cookie settings