August 2007

Utah Celebrates 100 years of Earthquake Recording

James Edward Talmage was a geology professor at the University of Deseret and later served as president of the same institution, now known as the University of Utah. He was also a field scientist, a writer, a researcher, and a collector.

Photo courtesy of Special Collections,
J.Willard Marriott Library,
University of Utah

On June 29 Utah’s earth science community celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the installation of this state’s first seismographs. A commemorative program was held at the James E. Talmage Building on the U of U campus. Talmage was the originator of earthquake recording in Utah.

Featured speakers at the ceremony included Utah Lt. Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Elder Gary J. Coleman, a General Authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who presented a tribute to Talmage. Subsequent remarks were made by one of Talmage’s granddaughters, Suzanne B. Winston.

Lt. Gov. Herbert read a declaration by Governor Jon M. Huntsman proclaiming June 29, 2007, “Utah Seismograph Centennial Day” to recognize the value of instrumental recordings of earthquakes in Utah and the pioneering role of James E. Talmage.

The program also featured a presentation, “Earthquake Recording in Utah: The Past 100 Years, the Present, and the Future,” by Dr. Walter J. Arabasz, director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations.

Seismographic recording and earthquakes studies in Utah have come a long way in the last 100 years. The first seismographs were installed on the University of Utah campus in 1907. It wasn’t until the 1960s that a skeletal network of five stations became operational at various locations around the state. Digital recording of earthquakes began in 1981, and in 2002, a real-time earthquake information system went into operation.

Dr. Arabasz noted, “Today’s commemoration celebrates not only the achievements of James E. Talmage 100 years ago, but also the contributions of many to earthquake studies in Utah during the past century.” Arabasz added, “Among our reasons to celebrate, we’ve modernized seismic monitoring to serve the people of Utah and we’ve just received a million-dollar appropriation from the Utah Legislature to enhance monitoring capabilities in the St. George—Cedar City area and other quake-prone parts of rural Utah outside the Wasatch Front.”

On the horizon for earthquake recording and research in Utah is the Frederick A. Sutton building, now under construction for the University’s Department of Geology and Geophysics. It will house the new Kennecott Earthquake Information Center, made possible by a generous donation of $600,000 from Kennecott Corporation of Utah. This facility will serve as the nerve center for reports on local earthquake activity to emergency managers, the news media, and the general public as well as being a modern facility for education and research. This 2,250-square-foot portion of the new Sutton building is scheduled for completion in February 2009.

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U-News & Views © 2007 - An online publication
by the University of Utah Alumni Association
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or Marcia Dibble, assistant editor (801-581-6996)

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