Palaeoseismicity of the Oquiirrh fault, Utah from shallow seismic tomography

David Morey*, Gerard T. Schuster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The magnitude and frequency of normal-fault palaeoearthquakes are usually determined by trenching studies that ascertain the size and number of colluvial wedges along the fault. Such information can be invaluable in predicting the seismic hazard and potential for a future earthquake in that region. Digging trenches across normal faults, however, is environmentally intrusive, expensive and limited in the penetration depth. To overcome these problems we propose the use of 3-D seismic tomography as a means to identify the shapes and sizes of colluvial wedges along normal faults. As an example, 2-D and 3-D seismic surveys were conducted across the Oquirrh fault, Utah with the purpose of imaging the normal-fault structure to a depth of about 10 m. Results show that the 3-D tomogram clearly delineates the fault zone and a colluvial wedge, both of which correlate extremely well with the geological cross-section interpreted from an adjacent trench. The thickness of the colluvial wedge image is used in conjunction with a seismic section to compute an estimate of a 6.8 moment magnitude earthquake for the most recent event on this fault, which is in close agreement with the 7.0 estimate based on a nearby trenching study. These tomographic results demonstrate, for the first time, that seismic imaging methods can be used in some cases to estimate unambiguously the shapes of colluvial wedges and the sizes of prehistoric earthquakes. Thus, seismic tomography has the possibility of providing cheaper, deeper and wider, but less resolved, images of fault systems than the intrusive excavation of trenches across faults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-35
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Oquirrh fault
  • Palaeoseismicity
  • Tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics


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