Quake myths busted: Seismic surveys, mega quakes and supermoons

Quake myths busted: Seismic surveys, mega quakes and supermoons

GNS Science has debunked two conspiracy theories which followed Monday's magnitude 7.8 earthquake, saying they aren't based in science or reality.

The misinformation includes a Facebook post claiming there's a high probability of the Alpine Fault "unzipping" and destroying Christchurch and Wellington.

The person who apparently posted it to Reddit claimed to work for GeoNet, a collaboration between the Earthquake Commission and GNS Science that focuses on geological hazard research and monitoring. The post has been shared thousands of times.

"Currently GeoNet is not allowed to make any public statements without government approval as they don't want us to spark a panic," the post reads.

"The problem is we cannot evacuate the cities just because an earthquake 'might' happen, especially since we have never observed such an event and so there is a lot of uncertainty in our models."

It claims when the Alpine Fault goes it could create a quake of between magnitude 8.5 and 9.5, and urges people to leave Christchurch and Wellington.

But GNS seismologist John Ristau says whoever wrote the post is in no way associated with GeoNet.

"Pretty much everything in that post is factually incorrect."

Quake myths busted: Seismic surveys, mega quakes and supermoons

Damage to State Highway 1 following Monday's quake (Newshub.)

He says the misinformation just makes their job harder.

"We have to spend valuable time trying to correct the information, and once something like that goes out there it can be very difficult to change people's minds, no matter how much data you put out there to say it's not true."

He says all the information and data GNS has is freely available to the public.

Another prominent conspiracy doing the rounds is the presence of seismic testing ship Amazon Warrior being responsible for Monday's earthquake.

The 126m-long vessel is here to commence seismic testing for oil along the eastern seaboard, which involves using high energy sounds to map the seabed.

The timing has been seized on by many on social media who believe the ship may have caused the earthquakes.

Green Party MP Steffan Browning posted photos of the ship in Cloudy Bay, near Blenheim, the day before the quake struck. He said he was sorry to see the "ecological thumper" in our backyard.

After Monday's quake people, tried to link it to the ship's presence.

"GET READY.......Earthquake technology exists, Weather Modification too, the US military used it on Haiti (ULF freq. from a US Navy vessel) & maybe even Fukishama although there is less evidence that points to that [sic]," warns Luis Flyer.

"Last night was maybe a shot over the bow, an orchestrated major catastrophy here in NZ, is the kind of event Key would allow. I am not calling it like a premonition, but rather perfect sequence of opportunities to pull a False Flag Hegelian Dialect catastrophic event [sic]."

"This vessel is under cover, monitoring the Earthquake Weaponry being tested on New Zealand, and phase two. Phase one was first Ch-Ch earthquake [sic]," claimed Warren Wichman.

These claims have been called "ridiculous" by the oil industry, with GNS saying seismic testing has no effect on earthquakes.

"Claims that offshore seismic surveying was responsible for Monday morning's earthquake are ridiculous and nothing short of scaremongering. There was no offshore seismic survey occurring in the area at the time," says Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand chief executive Cameron Madgwick.

"In addition, there is absolutely no scientific basis to support claims that offshore seismic surveying in any way causes earthquakes or triggers a fault."

Offshore seismic surveying involves a vessel sending a soundwave to the seabed. The information which bounces back gives a picture of the geology under the seabed.

Mr Madgwick says while the seismic survey vessel is in New Zealand waters, it has yet to start its work in the East Coast and Pegasus Basins.

Dr Ristau says the process of seismic exploration, which can include explosions or an 'air gun' will have little effect on the seafloor.

"Those kinds of sources, they pale in comparison to even a moderate-sized earthquake, so they'd have no effect on causing earthquakes."

Quake myths busted: Seismic surveys, mega quakes and supermoons

At the time of the quake, the supermoon was looming large over New Zealand and the rest of the world.

But did it have anything to do with the powerful earthquake?

Dr Ristau says that's plausible.

"When you get the tidal forces from the moon it does cause increased stresses in the Earth's crust. So what can happen potentially, is if you did have a fault that was almost at the very tipping point of rupturing, this could potentially act as the straw that broke the camel's back."