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The Wasatch fault zone, utah-segmentation and history of Holocene earthquakes

January 1, 1991

The Wasatch fault zone (WFZ) forms the eastern boundary of the Basin and Range province and is the longest continuous, active normal fault (343 km) in the United States. It underlies an urban corridor of 1.6 million people (80% of Utah's population) representing the largest earthquake risk in the interior of the western United States. We have used paleoseismological data to identify 10 discrete segments of the WFZ. Five are active, medial segments with Holocene slip rates of 1-2 mm a-1, recurrence intervals of 2000-4000 years and average lengths of about 50 km. Five are less active, distal segments with mostly pre-Holocene surface ruptures, late Quaternary slip rates of <0.5 mm a-1 recurrence intervals of ???10,000 years and average lengths of about 20 km. Surface-faulting events on each of the medial segments of the WFZ formed 2-4-m-high scarps repeatedly during the Holocene; latest Pleistocene (14-15 ka) deposits commonly have scarps as much as 15-20 m in height. Segments identified from paleoseismological studies of other major late Quaternary normal faults in the northern Basin and Range province are 20-25 km long, or about half of that proposed for the medial segments of the WFZ. Paleoseismological records for the past 6000 years indicate that a major surface-rupturing earthquake has occurred along one of the medial segments about every 395 ?? 60 years. However, between about 400 and 1500 years ago, the WFZ experienced six major surface-rupturing events, an average of one event every 220 years, or about twice as often as expected from the 6000-year record. This pattern of temporal clustering is similar to that of the central Nevada-eastern California Seismic Belt in the western part of the Basin and Range province, where 11 earthquakes of M > 6.5 have occurred since 1860. Although the time scale of the clustering is different-130 years vs 1100 years-we consider the central Nevada-eastern California Seismic Belt to be a historic analog for movement on the WFZ during the past 1500 years. We have found no evidence that surface-rupturing events occurred on the WFZ during the past 400 years, a time period which is twice the average intracluster recurrence interval and equal to the average Holocene recurrence interval. In particular, the Brigham City segment (the northernmost medial segment) has not ruptured in the past 3600 years-a period that is about three times longer than this segment's average recurrence interval during the early and middle Holocene. Although the WFZ's seismological record is one of relative quiescence, a comparison with other historic surface-rupturing earthquakes in the region suggests that earthquakes having moment magnitudes of 7.1-7.4 (or surface-wave magnitudes of 7.5-7.7)-each associated with tens of kilometers of surface rupture and several meters of normal dip slip-have occurred about every four centuries during the Holocene and should be expected in the future. ?? 1991.

Publication Year 1991
Title The Wasatch fault zone, utah-segmentation and history of Holocene earthquakes
Authors M. N. Machette, S. F. Personius, A. R. Nelson, D. P. Schwartz, W.R. Lund
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Structural Geology
Index ID 70016367
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse