Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Constraining fault growth rates and fault evolution in New Zealand



Understanding how faults propagate, grow, and interact in fault systems is important because they are primarily responsible for distributing strain in the upper crust. They localize deformation and stress release, often producing surface displacements that control sedimentation and fluid flow, either by acting as conduits or barriers. Identifying fault spatial distribution, quantifying activity, evaluating linkage mechanisms, and estimating fault growth rates are key components in seismic risk evaluation.

Scientists from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), New Zealand, and the Southampton Oceanography Centre, United Kingdom, are working on a collaborative project that aims to improve understanding of faulting processes in the Earth's crust.The program comprises two research cruises to survey the Whakatane Graben, New Zealand, which is a zone of intense seismicity active extensional faulting, and rapid subsidence within the back-arc region of the Pacific-Australia plate boundary zone (Figure 1). Few places in the world offer the same opportunity to study the mechanisms by which major crustal faults have grown from small- to large-scale structures capable of generating moderate to large-magnitude earthquakes.