Earthquake Near Japan Could Have Indications for Salt Lake

Earthquake Near Japan Could Have Indications for Salt Lake


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Ed Yeates ReportingThe coasts of Japan, Russia and Alaska prepared for a tsunami today but it never came. An undersea earthquake prompted tsunami warnings in that area, but the highest waves only reached 16 inches.

Officials still warned residents to be on alert, fearing aftershocks from the earthquake could bring bigger waves. However, official tsunami warnings have been lifted in most areas.

Last night's quake filled in a gap, completing a storm of big earthquakes that began in 1952. Brigham Young University geologist Ron Harris says filling in that gap is not unlike what we face along our own Wasatch Fault.

Just east of some downtown buildings is the Salt Lake segment of the Wasatch Fault. While it's a long, long way from last night's event, the similarities are sobering, to say the least.

BYU geologist Ron Harris is recognized for his research on a global scale. In fact, coincidentally, while teaching a class yesterday, he used the undersea location near Japan to talk about our own Wasatch Fault. Then only hours later the 8.3 magnitude quake hit in that exact location.

Ron Harris, Brigham Young University Geologist: "This area has an event more than magnitude six at least every decade."

Earthquake Near Japan Could Have Indications for Salt Lake

But how can two different faults so far apart from each other share anything in common? The intervals between quakes along this coastline are short.

1952, two quakes; 1957 had one; two in 1958 In 1959 there was one; another in 1963 and one in 1964 and 1965, Then last night, the gap that had gone the longest without a quake broke loose at 8.3.

Along the Wasatch Fault between Levan and Brigham City there have been earthquakes on every segment over longer intervals over the past twelve to 13-hundred years - except the Salt Lake segment. It's gone the longest without an event.

Earthquake Near Japan Could Have Indications for Salt Lake

Ron Harris: "The seismic gap along the Wasatch fault is Salt Lake City. The seismic gap theory isn't foolproof. There are exceptions throughout the world that we don't understand fully - but in most cases where there hasn't been an earthquake for a long time and you know strain is still accumulating."

It's likely the gap will be filled in. And along this fault - our own gap - we could expect a magnitude seven to 7.5 shaker.

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