- is the shear modulus of the rocks involved in the earthquake (in dyn/cm2)
- is the area of the rupture along the geologic fault where the earthquake occurred (in cm2), and
- is the average displacement on (in cm).
thus has dimensions of energy, measured in dyne centimeters.
The seismic moment of an earthquake is typically estimated using whatever information is available to constrain its factors. For modern earthquakes, moment is usually estimated from ground motion recordings of earthquakes known as seismograms. For earthquakes that occurred in times before modern instruments were available, moment may be estimated from geologic estimates of the size of the fault rupture and the displacement.
Seismic moment is the basis of the moment magnitude scale introduced by Hiroo Kanamori, which is often used to compare the size of different earthquakes and is especially useful for comparing the sizes of especially large (great) earthquakes.
- Aki, Keiiti (1966). "4. Generation and propagation of G waves from the Niigata earthquake of June 14, 1964. Part 2. Estimation of earthquake moment, released energy and stress-strain drop from G wave spectrum". Bulletin of the Earthquake Research Institute 44: 73–88.
- Aki, Keiti; Richards, Paul G. (2002). Quantitative seismology (2 ed.). University Science Books. ISBN 0-935702-96-2.
- Fowler, C. M. R. (1990). The solid earth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38590-3.