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Idaho's magnitude 6.5 earthquake has nothing to do with the recent 5.7 in Utah

Both quakes reminders to be prepared
Posted at 12:44 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 14:44:38-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck central Idaho Tuesday afternoon.

That made people along the Wasatch Front ask if it’s somehow related to the 5.7 earthquake in Magna two weeks ago.

Keith Koper, the director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, says the simple answer is 'no.'

“ It’s very uncommon for earthquakes of that size to be related to one another, so it’s just sort of a coincidence," Koper said.

While they’re not related and earthquakes are random, they do happen in clusters which create patterns Koper said.

"The analogy that we use is the stars in the sky," he said. "They’re distributed randomly, right, but people still see little patterns and make constellations like Orion you know you can still find things that look like patterns.”

5.7 isn't that far from 6.5 as far as numbers go, but the two quakes were actually quite different.

"The way the magnitude scales work, that’s about 16 times more energy," Koper said. "So the energy released in the Idaho earthquake was 16 times bigger than the energy released in our 5.7.”

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake can produce triggers or smaller earthquakes, but Koper sees no evidence of that happening with the Idaho earthquake.

"So it caused pretty good sized ground motion and there were thousands that felt it, many reports were from the sort of Greater Salt Lake City region.”

Both are reminders that we live in earthquake country.

Koper warns that there's a 50 percent chance that within the next 50 years, Utah will experience an earthquake larger than either of the recent ones.