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U of U Seismic Stations Tracking Largest Event Since the Early 1980's

University of Utah

A series of earthquakes in Yellowstone National Park is being reported by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations that began last Thursday. The strongest temblor was Sunday morning around 6:30 with a magnitude 4.8 on the Richter scale. 

Jamie Farrell is a Post Doctoral Research Associate is the U’s department of geology and geophysics. He says in the estimated 3,000 seismic events each year in and around Yellowstone, this one stands out.

“It’s significant in a sense that this is the largest event that we’ve recorded in Yellowstone since the early 1980’s, the sequence as a whole seems to be pretty standard,” says Farrell.

He says Yellowstone events tend to happen in what are called swarms and researchers are holding off on characterizing this one.

“It’s still kind of going although at a much slower pace,” Farrell says.

Robert B. Smith is a Distinguished Research Professor and Professor Emeritus at the University of Utah. He grew the Yellowstone Seismic Network from a few stations in the 60’s to more than 38 stations recording and sharing the information in real time worldwide today.   He says the similarities between the faults near Yellowstone and the Wasatch Fault make any seismic activity there of more interest to Salt Lake Valley residents.

“We’ve got the Hebgen Lake Fault, the Teton Fault; all these big active faults which are just like the Wasatch," says Smith. "They’re all relatively the same age. They’re relatively young and active.”

Smith says calculating the timing of the next significant Wasatch Front quake based on Yellowstone events is difficult.

“We’re past the time we would expect a return event, if all of the stresses with time were equal,” says Smith.

Smith recommends making all the standard earthquake preparations like strapping down your water heater and having an evacuation plan.

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