Whole lotta shakin' goin' on in eastern Idaho, Treasure Valley geologists track hundreds of quakes

Posted at 5:16 PM, Sep 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-06 19:35:09-04

Saturday evening, a 5.3 magnitude quake occurred about 10 miles east of Soda Springs. Since then, more than 100 small aftershocks have rattled Caribou County.

"The rocks are pulling apart in that area, and it's not surprising," Lee Liberty, Boise State University research professor in the Department of Geosciences, said. "It's an area that is seismically active. We've experienced other big earthquakes in that area in the past."

The active area is a couple hundred miles from the Treasure Valley, but geologists and seismometers locally have taken notice.

Geologist Coyote Short says the quakes visible charting on the seismometer at the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology are from the Soda Springs area.

"You can tell this is a local earthquake because the signature is very compressed," Short said. 

The scientific tool does more than chart what is happening nearby. Seismometers around the world pick up all kinds of earth-shaking events, including the most recent nuclear test out of North Korea.

Short says the missile test is visually dissimilar to an earthquake on the seismometer because it shows up as a high-intensity blip.

"They don't have a very long signature," Short said. 

Quakes are more common on the eastern side of the Gem State in what's referred to as the Idaho Seismic Belt.

"There's no indication to suggest that this fault system is any relation to magma or volcanic activity at Yellowstone," Liberty said. 

If visiting a seismometer isn't in your future but you still want to practice your amateur earthquake-tracking skills, a number of apps available on your smartphone will tell you the magnitude, frequency and location of earthquakes around the world.

"It's our planet, and it proves that our planet is alive," Short said. 

Liberty says the small aftershocks in Caribou County are expected to last days or even weeks.