What Seismologists Have Learned About The Wasatch Fault Since The Magna Earthquake

Mar 18, 2021, 5:10 PM | Updated: 8:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – One year ago Thursday, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake with an epicenter near Magna rattled the Wasatch Front, and it is still revealing new information about the Wasatch Fault.

That quake was the largest to rattle Utah in nearly 30 years. It was followed by a couple of magnitude 4.6 aftershocks and hundreds of smaller aftershocks that still continue.

Keith Koper, director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, characterized that earthquake as moderate-sized, but large for Utah. Scientifically, it was beneficial and even helped the seismologist understand his work better.

“It was definitely the strongest shaking that I’ve ever felt from an earthquake,” said Koper.

He knew what it was right away because he had felt minor quakes before, but never a moderate 5.7. Suddenly, he said, his life’s work felt more real. “It gives me a little more empathy, too, for how really dangerous and sort of shocking it is, and scary it is to go through something like that,” he said.

In spite of the damage it caused for businesses and residents in Magna, it provided a wake-up call for preparedness without causing communitywide catastrophic damage.

“Many people are never going to forget that,” Koper said. “People that went through it who went through it here in Utah are going to remember the shaking. So ideally, what that does, it makes them prepare a little bit and think this could happen in the future and it could be much worse.”

From a scientific standpoint, they learned that even a moderate quake on the Wasatch Fault will produce a long sequence of aftershocks.

“There’s been over 2,600 aftershocks,” he said, and they could go on several years. “Most of these that are happening are quite small. They are magnitude 1, maybe magnitude 2, so nobody is feeling them.”

From those aftershocks, they’ve discovered the Wasatch Fault is curved downward like the shape of a snow shovel, curving close to Magna.

“It’s a little bit closer to the surface than what we had previously thought,” the seismologist said. “So when we do get a magnitude 7 earthquake, we’re basically updating our models and the predicted amount of shaking from a future magnitude 7 earthquake is going to be a little bit larger than what we thought before.”

Seismologists still cannot predict earthquakes but the data they have gathered enables them to update their forecasts. Koper said there’s still about a 50% chance in the next 50 years that the Wasatch Front will experience a magnitude 6.5 or greater earthquake.

“It’s not perfect,” Koper said. “But, it’s much better than it used to be before having this data from Magna.”

KSL 5 TV Live


FILE: Salt Lake City police say one person was arrested early Saturday morning after attempting to ...

Mark Jones

Man in custody after attempting to flee the scene of an auto-pedestrian accident

Salt Lake City police say a 24-year-old man was taken into custody early Saturday morning after attempting to flee the scene of a auto-pedestrian accident.

6 days ago

A visitor takes in a view of the city's skyline under the snow-covered San Gabriel mountains after ...

Stefanie Dazio and Julie Watson, Associated Press

A 4.6-magnitude earthquake shakes greater Los Angeles. No reports of significant damage

An magnitude 4.6 earthquake has struck the Southern California coast near Malibu.

14 days ago


Ken Miller, The Associated Press

Oklahoma rattled by shallow 5.1 magnitude earthquake

A 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook an area near Oklahoma City late Friday, followed by smaller quakes during the next several hours, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

20 days ago

The University of Utah seismograph center keeping track of seismograph stations across Utah....

Lindsay Aerts

Utah is looking into getting an early warning system to help predict earthquakes

How much would it be worth to get notified of an earthquake 16 seconds before it happened? One lawmaker says 5 million dollars, but it's worth the cost.

22 days ago

Utah National Guard troops training in Morocco. (Utah National Guard)...

Brianna Chavez

Utah National Guard in Morocco for training exercise, ‘ready’ to assist Moroccan allies

Utah National Guards are in Morocco and ready "to respond if needed" after a deadly earthquake that took place late Friday, according to ranking officials. 

6 months ago

FILE: Gov. Spencer Cox stand with the Utah National Guard. Sep. 9, 2023 (Gov. Spencer Cox)...

Clayre Scott, KSL NewsRadio

Utah National Guard members to assist Morocco in the aftermath of deadly earthquake

In response to the disaster, Gov. Spencer Cox has announced that members of the Utah National Guard will leave Saturday to assist Morocco.

6 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

What Seismologists Have Learned About The Wasatch Fault Since The Magna Earthquake