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Researchers say ‘earthquake swarms’ in central Utah linked to geothermal energy

Posted at 8:41 AM, Jul 26, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A new study reveals most of Utah's earthquakes can't be felt.

Larger earthquakes like the 2020 magnitude 5.7 in Magna cause damage and are felt in a wide area. But University of Utah researchers say most of the state's seismic activity comes in groups of much smaller shakes.

They are called "earthquake swarms" and there have been dozens of them recorded over the past 40 years in central Utah.

READ: University of Utah study on 'earthquake swarms' in Utah

Researchers think swarms are triggered by hot water in the earth's crust.

The "geothermal hot spot" called "FORGE," Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy, spans Beaver, Iron, Sevier and Piute counties. After looking at decades worth of data, researchers say 80 percent of sequences in the area are swarms.

Those researchers call it "remarkable."

Swarms are usually between magnitude one and three, so you can't really feel them as they strike within a few days or weeks.

The university study is ongoing and researchers say the work is important to understanding overall seismic activity in our state.