The history of late holocene surface-faulting earthquakes on the central segments of the Wasatch fault zone, Utah

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Abstract

The Wasatch fault (WFZ)—Utah’s longest and most active normal fault—forms a prominent eastern boundary to the Basin and Range Province in northern Utah. To provide paleoseismic data for a Wasatch Front regional earthquake forecast, we synthesized paleoseismic data to define the timing and displacements of late Holocene surface-faulting earthquakes on the central five segments of the WFZ. Our analysis yields revised histories of large (M ~7) surface-faulting earthquakes on the segments, as well as estimates of earthquake recurrence and vertical slip rate. We constrain the timing of four to six earthquakes on each of the central segments, which together yields a history of at least 24 surface-faulting earthquakes since ~6 ka. Using earthquake data for each segment, inter-event recurrence intervals range from about 0.6 to 2.5 kyr, and have a mean of 1.2 kyr. Mean recurrence, based on closed seismic intervals, is ~1.1–1.3 kyr per segment, and when combined with mean vertical displacements per segment of 1.7–2.6 m, yield mean vertical slip rates of 1.3–2.0 mm/yr per segment. These data refine the late Holocene behavior of the central WFZ; however, a significant source of uncertainty is whether structural complexities that define the segments of the WFZ act as hard barriers to ruptures propagating along the fault. Thus, we evaluate fault rupture models including both single-segment and multi-segment ruptures, and define 3–17-km-wide spatial uncertainties in the segment boundaries. These alternative rupture models and segment-boundary zones honor the WFZ paleoseismic data, take into account the spatial and temporal limitations of paleoseismic data, and allow for complex ruptures such as partial-segment and spillover ruptures. Our data and analyses improve our understanding of the complexities in normal-faulting earthquake behavior and provide geological inputs for regional earthquake-probability and seismic hazard assessments.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title The history of late holocene surface-faulting earthquakes on the central segments of the Wasatch fault zone, Utah
Volume 46
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Utah Geological Association
Contributing office(s) Geologic Hazards Science Center
Description 51 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Title Geology and resources of the Wasatch: Back to front, Utah Geological Association Publication 46
First page 1
Last page 51