Home Emergency Management News Study: 93 Percent Chance of Moderate Earthquake in Utah in Next 50 Years
Study: 93 Percent Chance of Moderate Earthquake in Utah in Next 50 Years

Study: 93 Percent Chance of Moderate Earthquake in Utah in Next 50 Years

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High likelihood a significant quake with hit Utah in the next five decades

A recent study analyzed earthquake risk in a highly populated region of Utah over the next five decades and broke the likelihood by severity.

The study, Earthquake Probabilities for the Wasatch Front Region in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, is a collaboration of 14 scientists from academia, federal agencies, state agencies, and private industry. The group projected the odds of a damaging earthquake occurring in Utah’s Wasatch Front region in the first comprehensive study of its kind in the state of Utah.

The Wasatch Front is a metropolitan region in north-central Utah that runs from Nephi in the south to Brigham City in the north. Approximately 80 percent of the entire state population lives in this metropolitan area, as it includes relatively large cities Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden, and others.

The study concluded that there is greater than a 9-of-10 chance, a 93 percent chance to be exact, that a moderate earthquake quake (magnitude 5 or greater) will shake the Wasatch Front in the next fifty years.

43 percent chance of a large earthquake in Utah in the next 50 years

Breaking it down even further, the scientists concluded that there is a 43 percent chance, or nearly a 1-in-2 odds, that the region will experience a large earthquake (magnitude 6.75 or greater) within the next five decades. Quakes in this category can be much more destructive than moderate quakes, damaging buildings or even collapsing building that are not reinforced.

Ivan Wong, lead author of the report and Principal Seismologist at Lettis Consultants International, pointed out that, with Utah having the youngest average age in the U.S. (approximately 29 years), there are good odds that a lot of current Utah residents will be shaken by a large earthquake in their lifetime.

The Wasatch Fault

The Wasatch Fault, a 240-mile long active fault that runs from southern Idaho, through northern Utah, and into central Utah is the most likely fault be responsible for a large earthquake, the study found. This fault alone has an 18 percent chance of generating a magnitude-6.75 or greater in the next five decades.

The study didn’t focus solely on the Wasatch Fault, and took into account numerous mapped and unmapped faults along with that well-known fault when determining the probability of seismic events.

Matt Mills Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.