There are many invariants can be measured by local cohomology. Here are a few examples.

I assume $(R, \mathfrak{m})$ is a complete local ring of dimension $d$. The non Cohen-Macaulay locus of $R$ is defined as follows

$nCM(R) = \{\mathfrak{p} \in \mathrm{Spec}(R) \ | \ R_{\mathfrak{p}} \text{ is not Cohen-Macaulay}\}.$

We can ask some questions about the non Cohen-Macaulay locus as: Is $nCM(R)$ a closed subset of $\mathrm{Spec}(R)$? What is the dimension of $nCM(R)$? Local cohomology give us the answers of these questions.

Indeed, let $\mathfrak{a}_i = \mathrm{Ann}(H^i_{\mathfrak{m}}(R))$, $i \ge 0$, and $\mathfrak{a} = \mathfrak{a}_0 \ldots \mathfrak{a}_{d-1}$. It is easy to see that if $R$ is Cohen-Macaulay i.e. $nCM(R) = \emptyset$, then $\mathfrak{a} = R$ since $H^i_{\mathfrak{m}}(R) = 0$ for all $i = 0, \ldots, d-1$. The Faltings annihilator theorem give us the answer in general case (see *Brodmann-Sharp:* *local cohomology*)

**Theorem 1.** Suppose $R$ is equidimensional. Then we have

(i) $nCM(R) = Var(\mathfrak{a})$ is a closed subset of $\mathrm{Spec}(R)$.

(ii) The dimension of $nCM(R)$ is $\dim R/\mathfrak{a}$.

We can define a generalization of the class of Cohen-Macaulay ring as follows.

**Definition 2.** The ring $R$ is called generalized Cohen-Macaulay if $\dim R/\mathfrak{a} \le 0$, that is $H^i_{\mathfrak{m}}(R)$ has finite length for all $i = 0, \ldots, d-1$.

It should be noted that the affine cone of any nonsingular projective variaty is generalized Cohen-Macaulay. Working with generalized Cohen-Macaulay rings are much more difficult than Cohen-Macaulay rings but we have some chances to do so with $\ell(H^i_{\mathfrak{m}}(R))$. For example, let $\mathfrak{q}$ be a parameter ideal of $R$. Then we always have $\ell(R/\mathfrak{q}) \ge e(\mathfrak{q})$ the multiplicity of $q$. Moreover $R$ is Cohen-Macaulay if and only if $\ell(R/\mathfrak{q}) = e(\mathfrak{q})$ for some (and any) $\mathfrak{q}$. When $R$ is generalized Cohen-Macaulay, the different $\ell(R/\mathfrak{q}) - e(\mathfrak{q})$ are bounded above by an invariant in terms of local cohomology. More precisely we have

$$\ell(R/\mathfrak{q}) - e(\mathfrak{q}) \le \binom{d-1}{i} \ell(H^i_{\mathfrak{m}}(R))$$

(see Trung's paper: towards a theory of generalized Cohen-Macaulay modules, Nagoya, 1986)

tonsof invariants there. Maybe you could sharpen your question to narrow down the potential list or suggest the types of problems your interested in and better advice can be given. $\endgroup$ – lemiller Apr 25 '16 at 3:50