Seismologists look to the past to understand the present

  • 04/08/2017
quake
Until recently, each earthquake was expected to mainly take place on an individual fault. Photo credit: Getty

Earthquakes from the 1800s could lead to fresh insights to help New Zealand scientists forecast further quakes.

University of Canterbury professor Andy Nicol says until recently, each earthquake was expected to mainly take place on an individual fault.

The team from Canterbury University, Otago University and GNS Science are now studying data from earthquakes from 1840 onwards.

"The 2010 Darfield and 2016 Kaikoura earthquakes got our team re-looking at the history of earthquakes in New Zealand," Prof Nicol said.

"These earthquakes ruptured multiple faults and made us suspect that earthquakes are more complicated than we used to think.

''The Kaikoura earthquake is one of the most complicated ever recorded globally and ruptured at least 17 different faults.

"The research makes us think that a rupture on one fault could certainly trigger ruptures in neighbouring faults, including faults we don't know about and are unmapped,'' he said.

''Therefore complicated earthquakes may be more normal than was previously thought."

NZN