NewsLocal News


Researchers: The 'Big One' could feel even bigger

Posted at 10:23 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 00:23:14-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The next large earthquake to hit along the Wasatch Front could cause more damage than first thought.

After studying the 5.7 magnitude Magna earthquake, researchers believe the so-called “Big One” could feel bigger because it could be miles closer to the earth’s surface.

“It does make a big difference in terms of the level of shaking of the ground that you would feel or experience right very close to the epicenter,” said University of Utah Seismograph Stations Director Keith Koper.

Their findings were recently submitted for peer-review by the Geophysical Research Letters last week.

"We get excited about earthquakes like this and we got a lot of new information,” said research scientist Katherine Whidden.

The Magna fault structure was relatively unknown before March 18, 2020.

After examining thousands of aftershocks, researchers will use the data to update seismic hazard models. It might even be used to update building codes in the future.

“If you can learn something that can help us better estimate or forecast what is going to be the shaking of a future earthquake, to me it is a big deal,” said Koper.

The Wasatch fault is long overdue for a Magnitude 7 quake. It’s estimated to be capable of causing 2,500 deaths and $33 billion in damage.

“We are refining our understanding of a fault and understanding our hazard here in Utah and in the long run, we will all be safer,” said Whidden.

While the research is important, Koper and Whidden agree people should not panic. Instead, they advise people to put together a 72-hour kit and make a family plan for when a large earthquake strikes.