With moisture-laden soil across the state receiving fresh bursts of precipitation this week, it’s not just floods that loom as a threat for Utahns, but mudslides as well.

“It’s not too soon to say there are potential problem areas,” said Rich Giraud, senior geologist with the Utah Geologic Survey’s geologic hazards program.

April is typically the month along the Wasatch Front for slide activity, but Giraud said there have already been some problems reported, with slides in North Salt Lake and on transportation corridors such as I-80 at Parleys Summit.



The recent earthquakes and tsunamis in other parts of the world have made some people along the Wasatch Front wonder if they are ready for a natural disaster in their own community. Many have checked their emergency kits, food storages and even building foundations in preparation.

In Cedar Hills, there is a different worry involving a recurring landslide, with the latest occurrence in August 2005 that caused the evacuation of many homes and families.

As part of precautions, the Cedar Hills Planning Commission took action on Tuesday to recommend adding a new paragraph to the current City Code describing how to measure the required 30 percent grade for building.

The code was made to stop developments from inching up toward dangerous ground and onto areas that may be affected by the landslide.



You are in Moab for the weekend, you have slick-rocked all day and now you consult your new smart phone application to find the next place to see and adventure to be had.

The “Utah GeoSites” app allows students to navigate to more than 30 geological sites across Utah right from the touch of an Android phone.

The GeoSites app is free to download and provides three interactive maps detailing how to get to sites, interesting facts about how the sites were formed and what cool things there are to explore on location.
“I have been down in Escalante and Moab and have been stuck down there without knowing what to do. It would be nice knowing what’s around,” said Olivia Crellin, BYU student and avid road-tripper from Colorado. “If I had an Android phone I would for sure use the app because there are books and maps that have specific info to regions, but it would be nice to have everything in one database.”

Marshall Robinson, creator of the Android app, surveys Utah geological sites year round for the Utah Geological Survey. With each site he visits, Robinson uploads the history of each natural land creation, the photos he’s taken and other interesting facts about the area to the Utah Geological Survey website.



Japan’s magnitude-8.9 earthquake has promptedwarnings from experts that a major temblor along Utah’s Wasatch Front could kill thousands of people and cause billions of dollars in damage.

While Utah is unlikely to experience a quake as powerful as the one that devastated Japan, the state could be rocked by one of up to a magnitude of 7.5, the Standard-Examiner of Ogden reported.

Adolph Yonkee, a Weber State University geosciences professor, said that kind of quake could be produced by the Wasatch fault line and could strike tomorrow or 500 years from now. The fault runs about 240 miles south of Idaho to central Utah.

“We don’t have as big of earthquakes here, but a major earthquake in Utah would still be serious and produce a lot of damage,” Yonkee said.

Tony Lowry, a Utah State University geophysicist, said a major quake would devastate Utah and destroy many buildings, especially those built before quake safety requirements were imposed in 1989.



Thinking a bit about earthquakes today? A lot of people don’t realize that earthquake damage is not covered by basic homeowner’s insurance policies. If an earthquake damages or destroys your home and you don’t have earthquake coverage, you’re still obligated to pay your mortgage – even if you can no longer live in your home.

Whether or not earthquake insurance makes sense for you, however, depends a few things, such as where you live and how worried you are about earthquakes. Your financial situation is another factor, because earthquake coverage isn’t cheap. Many people pay $300 to $500 or more per year to be covered in the event of earthquakes. That’s in addition to the cost of your basic homeowner’s insurance policy. (Many major insurance companies do not actually sell earthquake insurance in Utah, but they can refer you to a specialty company that does sell the coverage.)

For more information about the risk of earthquakes in Utah, go here. The Utah Geological Survey also has a lot of good information here. The Utah Department of Insurance also has some information you may want to read here. Another good source of information is your homeowner’s insurance agent.



For a complete announcements and instructions on how to apply, please visit the State of Utah website at:

HAZARDS MAPPING GEOLOGIST (official announcement)

Application Period: 02/02/2011 – 03/06/2011
Location: Salt Lake City – Utah Geological Survey – 1594 W. North Temple

The incumbent in this position will perform Quaternary geologic and geologic hazard mapping duties in our Geologic Hazards Program, generating 1:24,000-scale geologic maps and derivative geologic hazard map sets in urban areas mainly along the Wasatch Front, using ArcGIS software, stereo aerial photography, photogrammetry, and other methods. While the position is mainly focused on generating Quaternary geologic maps, the incumbent will work with other Geologic Hazards Program staff to perform geologic hazards and engineering geology investigations using GIS as needed; respond to geologic hazard emergency response requests; provide thorough technical publication reviews for other staff; and provide external outreach to citizens and local governments that may include the media.

The incumbent in this position will work closely with our Geologic Mapping Program in creation and publication of high-quality 1:24,000-scale Quaternary geologic maps that may be part of the U.S. Geological Survey StateMap program; will work with two other hazard mapping geologists in producing geologic hazard map sets; and will gather available geologic, geologic hazard, geotechnical, and soils data for subsequent analysis and map generation. Geologic mapping may also involve a combination of Quaternary and bedrock mapping, depending upon the mapped quadrangle, and will typically involve Lake Bonneville stratigraphy.

Incumbent hired as a Project Geologist will be required to obtain a Utah Professional Geologist (PG) license within one (1) year of hire.

This position may be filled at the Geologist level if the selected candidate does not meet the experience and/or licensing requirements for the Project Geologist level (i.e., at least 5 years of full-time directly applicable geologic experience, and has or can acquire a Utah Professional Geologist (PG) license within one year of hire)


Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons contain some of the most dramatic glacial scenery in the Wasatch Range. This article highlights some of the numerous and varied glacial features in both canyons.

Geologic Information: The Cottonwood Canyons and many of their tributaries and high-elevation basins were filled with hundreds of feet of glacial ice between 30,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The Little Cottonwood Canyon glacier reached beyond the mouth of the canyon and extended into Lake Bonneville, calving ice bergs into the Ice Age lake. The Big Cottonwood Canyon glacier, however, advanced only about 5 miles down its canyon. Presumably this was due to less snow accumulation in Big Cottonwood’s catchment area.

Valley (alpine) glaciers originate at the head of valleys in high mountain ranges and then flow down preexisting stream valleys. They erode and transport considerable amounts of rock debris, enabling them to significantly modify the landscape. Many distinctive erosional and depositional landforms result; however, this article addresses only the more prominent local features. Beautiful granitic rock that has been sculpted by glacial ice in both canyons enhances the spectacular rugged, mountainous scenery.

Erosional Landforms and Features: Glaciers pluck and abrade a staggering amount of rock from the canyon walls and floors, which is then carried along with the moving ice. Thus, the hefty mass of rock material and ice perform some serious erosion. The valley bottom and walls are scoured vigorously, creating a deeper and much wider U-shaped canyon—one of the most distinctive valley glacial features.