Utah's seismograph network is well-operated, excellently managed and worthy of increased economic support from the state and other sources, concludes a recently released U.S. Geological Survey report.
A seven-member scientific panel studied 27 regional seismograph networks in the United States for the report.Utah's network, which is centered at the University of Utah, won praise for its aggressive efforts over the past few years "in bringing the earthquake safety message to the public." Despite that effort, the Utah system, like others around the nation, needs a considerable and sustained commitment of effort, time and facilities to be of scientific and educational benefit to national and state earthquake safety planners, the report said.
Walter Arabasz, research professor of geology and geophysics at the U. and director of the seismograph network, says Utah legislators are aware of the funding need and have expressed support for legislative proposals to finance upgrades for the system the past two years. Unfortunately, state budget woes have prevented efforts to translate verbal support into monetary support.
"I'm optimistic that state leaders will eventually be persuaded that information from modern instrumentation is a must for greater earthquake safety and for managing Utah's growing vulnerability to multimillion-dollar earthquake losses," Arabasz said.
A similar report by the National Research Council said decreased federal spending is largely responsible for the weakened capabilities of the regional networks. The council report, which also supports increasing state and other support for the networks, said too often officials fail to recognize the essential role the networks play beyond simply monitoring quake activity. Other important parts of the network missions affect rapid emergency response, scientific research and the acquisition of information for earthquake engineering.
The center at the U. is the only one of its kind in the Intermountain area. It detects and analyzes about 2,900 seismic events annually. Since 1974, the Intermountain seismic belt has averaged about 1,100 events annually, some 500 along the populous Wasatch Front.