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At 11.33 a.m. this morning, a 6.5 earthquake approximately 31 kilometres deep, struck off the northern East Coast, 170 kilometres away from Te Araroa. The earthquake was felt widely throughout New Zealand with more than 800 felt reports within the first 10 minutes. People have reported feeling this quake from Northland to North Canterbury on the South Island.  

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management have stated this earthquake has not generated a tsunami.

Bill Fry, our duty seismologist, says that some aftershocks have already occurred but future aftershocks are unlikely to make much of a felt impact on land. It is still too early to tell exactly how the sequence will progress however the most likely scenario is the aftershocks will decay in frequency and be hardly noticeable on land. So far, we've had nine earthquakes in the area that are probably associated aftershocks.

About the earthquake: Current information suggests that the earthquake was located below the mega thrust fault, which is separates the Pacific and Australian plates. This is a highly active region so earthquakes of this size and location are not surprising.  

Felt reports update: Almost 3,200 felt reports have been cataloged throughout New Zealand . We now have felt reports from Dunedin, as far east as the Chatham Islands and as far north as Whangarei. 

Ghost quakes have already been reported in our system, the most noteable one was a 4.8 reported in Hanmer Springs. This has been removed from our system. Any felt reports related to the Hanmer Springs ghost quake will be reassigned to the 6.5 earthquake. 


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This morning's earthquake is a good reminder that these things can happen at any time! Here is where you can get more information about preparing for earthquakes:


 

(Last updated at 4.12 p.m., 17/11/2014) 

(First published at 11.50 a.m., 17/11/2014)

 

A small magnitude 2.7 earthquake occurred just offshore from Motutapu Island in the Auckland region this morning. This isn't a rare occurrence as Auckland does get earthquakes from time to time. But what is a little different is that the earthquake seemed to disappear from the front page of our website. Don't fret, our earthquake watching friends in Auckland! The earthquake didn't disappear; it just didn't meet our threshold to be on the front page of the website.

So far, 50 people have reported feeling this earthquake.

For those of you interested if it is of volcanic origin, it is a tectonic earthquake. 

The last earthquakes in Auckland that were widely felt throughout the region was 17 March 2013, when two earthquakes shook up the area. This was the most "felt" earthquake in GeoNet history with 13,917 reports.

Here are the top earthquakes in or close to the Auckland region over the last 150 years:

Date

 Magnitude

 Depth (km)

3/10/1948

5.0

215

3/06/1937

5.5

25

7/11/1927

5.5

25

26/05/1912

5.7

12

23/06/1891

6.2

12

02/09/1840

5.5

25

01/01/1835

6.5

25

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For more information about earthquakes in Auckland:

Did you know you can follow Auckland Civil Defence and Emergency Management on Facebook? They are also on Twitter @AucklandCDEM. We recommend following them for the latest in emergencies in Auckland!

Two moderate intensity earthquakes have struck a few kilometres west of Waharoa, in the Waikato region, from 5 November to 7 November. Normally, a couple of moderate intensity earthquakes are not newsworthy; but these are slightly less common in this area than other parts of the country. We have had several moderate intensity earthquakes in this area that have been associated with swarms in the past. At this point, It’s still too early to call it a swarm but we know that swarms have happened in this area before, behaving in a similar manner.

The first earthquake was a magnitude 3.6 on the 5 November at 3:37 p.m. (link); we received 275 felt it reports for this earthquake. The largest earthquake so far was a magnitude 3.9 that occurred at 3:43 a.m. on the 7 November (today) and 700 residents throughout the Bay of Plenty and Waikato region reported feeling the quake. These moderate earthquakes have been followed by several smaller ones. We've had only a small number of earthquakes in total; six in two days.  Swarms are common in this area; we had a larger swarm in 2005, approximately 30 kilometres north east of this week’s earthquakes. 

This 2005 swarm near Te Aroha was a lot more active, with more than 30 earthquakes which went on for several weeks. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gisborne area is no stranger to “silent” earthquakes or, as our seismology friends like to call these: the 'slow-slip event' (SSEs). We've recorded several SSEsover the past decade or so in the Gisborne area but its been quiet for the last 18 months. Two weeks ago, our GPS system started picking up some movement again. After monitoring our equipment closely to ensure we had another SSE going on, we can now confirm that there is an SSE occurring right now in the Gisborne area, and showing signs of being similar to the one in March 2010.

We sat down with Stephen Bannister, one of our top seismologists at GNS Science, to get the lowdown on the events currently going on in Gisborne and what it means for people in the area:

Q.  How frequently do we get SSEs in the Gisborne area?

SSEs large enough to detect occur about every 18 months in the Gisborne area, although these can vary in size a bit. The last SSE of this size in the region occurred back in March 2010, south-east of Gisborne and north-east of Mahia peninsula.

Q. Do you think this SSE will cause more earthquakes? Should we be preparing for more earthquakes in the region?

SSEs sometimes trigger multiple magnitude 2 to 4 earthquakes around their periphery; but in the last two weeks there hasn't been much significant seismic activity observed for this new SSE.  Having said that, the science regarding SSEs is relatively new; we've only been aware of this

phenomenon for the last decade.  The best advice regarding this event is to be prepared for earthquakes anyway; we can get large earthquakes anywhere in New Zealand, it’s just that some areas are more likely than others to get these. You should always be prepared for earthquakes

Q. On the flip side of the previous question, does an SSE mean that we might have fewer earthquakes? Does it relieve the pressure on the faults?

Based on our current understanding: yes. The SSEs do relieve stress in the areas where they occur  on the thrust interface, approximately 15 km below the earth’s surface, as they represent large-scale creep on the thrust fault.

Having said that, SSEs may transfer stress to surrounding areas and potentially trigger earthquakes on their periphery; what the size and strength of those potential earthquakes would be is impossible to predict at the moment. 

Q. How much land movement are we talking about here? Should we be purchasing more beach front property in Gisborne with the hopes of getting extra land out of it?

Well…up to 3 cm can possibly be displaced sideways, which is about the length of a pineapple lump (it's before lunch and I'm hungry). This is mostly an eastwards direction; but less than that in the vertical direction. To compare to the previous SSE in Gisborne in March 2010, some of the GeoNet sites experienced horizontal shifts of up to 5 cm. This new SSE looks smaller than that 2010 SSE. In other words, we are very slowly moving towards Chile's coast. I'm kidding. Mostly. I mean, we might get there in about a billion years or so...never mind. 

 

This means some beachfront property would move slightly towards the dateline but it wouldn’t be much vertically. Beachfront property in Gisborne would likely be unaffected by this SSE.

Q. How do we know when an SSE is occurring?

There is a network of continuously recording GPS stations across New Zealand, which is operated and monitored by GeoNet, which is funded by EQC, GNS Science and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). These geodetic stations are very sensitive and can detect changes in position of the order of millimetres.  When a SSE occurs, several GPS stations, (which are roughly 20 km apart) are displaced at the same time, both horizontally and vertically. From examining the GPS data we can then calculate the amount of slip involved for that SSE.

Q. So why are studying SSEs so important?

Hopefully, by observing this phenomena, we will gain important insights into why earthquakes occur, where these occur most frequently and how earthquakes are related to each other.  

 

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To find out more information about how to prepare for earthquakes, go to:

 

Dunedin’s shaky past?

Last night, Dunedin and the surrounding area got its first magnitude 4 earthquake in a long time. The M4.1 was widely felt throughout the Otago region, with more than 1,300 felt reports received by GeoNet. This earthquake may have been a bit of a surprise to some people as earthquakes simply aren’t that common in this part of the South Island.  

But these have happened before. We dug through our earthquake files to find out more about Dunedin’s shaky past.

Q. How long ago was the last earthquake in Dunedin?

A. In 1991, a 4.1 struck off the south coast of Dunedin, near an area that had previously experienced a few Magnitude  4 earthquakes.

Q. What was the largest earthquake since 1960 in the Dunedin area?

A. The largest earthquake to occur in the area since 1960 was a 4.9 in 1974, which occurred in a similar area to the 1991 earthquake (see below).

Q. Have we had earthquakes in the same area as last night’s?

A. The earthquake that occurred last night was very similar to one that occurred in 1982; it was in almost the same location and depth.

Q. It felt more intense in some places. Why is that?

A. This earthquake occurred at a depth of 4 km. That makes it very sharply focused but only over a small area. Think of a torch shining down on a table top. If it is close to the table top, the light is strong and sharp - that's like a shallow quake, which feels like a sharp jolt. If the torch is moved further away, the light is more widespread but diffused – that’s like a deep earthquake: widely felt but more wobbly.

Here is a list of historical quakes in Dunedin from 1960 to today:

DateEarthquake Information

1991-02-21

Magnitude: 4.1
Depth: 33 km

1989-07-13

Magnitude: 4.3
Depth: 12 km

1986-10-21

Magnitude: 4.1
Depth: 12 km

1984-06-24

Magnitude: 4.1
Depth: 12 km

1982-12-23

Magnitude. 4.0
Depth:12 km

1982-06-23

Magnitude: 4.2
Depth: 12 km

1974-04-09

Magnitude: 4.9
Depth:12 km

Dunedin earthquake description (from Adams & Kean, 1974)

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The earthquake in the early evening of Tuesday, 9 April, 1974 was the strongest known to have affected the city of Dunedin since its founding in the middle of last century. The earthquake was of moderate magnitude ... and centered close to the city. A large amount of minor damage was caused, and in particular many domestic brick chimneys were damaged. The main earthquake was generally felt out to Oamaru, Roxburgh and Balclutha, with isolated reports from as far afield as Waipapa Point and Gore.

Damage was almost entirely confined to the Dunedin area ... From standard felt report forms submitted to the Seismological Observatory, and a visit to Dunedin two months after the earthquake, it was established that the intensity reached MM 7 in the worst affected areas of Dunedin. These were mainly the southern suburbs on the alluvium between Otago Peninsula and St. Clair. Little damage beyond that to domestic chimneys occurred even in these areas, but chimney damage was consistent and widespread, and although the standard of construction was commonly poor ... Chimney damage occurred, but less densely, over most of the rest of the city, including the hill suburbs, but was usually more superficial and restricted to fall of pots and plaster.

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While earthquakes are not that common in Dunedin, people still need to be prepared for these to occur. Someday, we may have a large earthquake in the area and it helps if everyone is prepared for it. To find out more about preparing for earthquakes, go to:

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck off the south-west tip of the South Island this evening. It occurred before a quarter past six, and was centred at the shallow depth of 10km. Tonight's earthquake is too small to have created a tsunami.

Earthquakes in the Fiordland region are due to the collision of the Australian and Pacific plates. The location and size of this one is almost identical to an earthquake on December 23 2013, nearly ten months ago. Both earthquakes were reverse faulting or thrust mechanisms resulting from the Australian plate pushing (subducting) beneath the Pacific plate. Fiordland sits upon on the Pacific plate.

The Fiordland area is a very productive region for big earthquakes, but its remoteness means that the shaking has usually lost its damaging capability by the time it has reached the nearest localities such as Tuatapere, Queenstown and Haast. Within 20 minutes over 600 people had reported the earthquake, with no more than moderate shaking. The reports were largely confined to the southern part of the South Island.

Other recent notable quakes in this region were:

 

A strong earthquake occurred 15 km west of the settlement of Pongaroa just after twenty to three this morning.

As shown on the accompanying map, it occurred a little to the east of the epicentre of the M6.0 Eketahuna quake earlier this year. It is the third earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or more to strike this region of New Zealand, with the third one occurring at the end of March in the vicinity of Waipukurau.

Over 2,000 felt reports had been submitted within the first hour of the quake, but with only one report of any damage at Terrace End, in Palmerston North, by that time.

Its epicentre close to the January shake is the main scientific point of interest. There had been very few, and only very minor, aftershocks by 4 am, 100 minutes after the earthquake.

Multiple “ghost quakes” have appeared on our seismic sensors this morning after the 6.9 Kermadec Islands earthquake (revised from 7.2) shook Raoul Island earlier this morning. 

What is a “ghost quake”?

“Ghost” quakes appear on our network typically after a large regional source earthquake. We have very sensitive seismic equipment that picks up the various waves that earthquakes create and we can pick up these waves even if it is very far away. For example, we also picked up seismic waves from the Alaska quake this morning. Our equipment gets confused by these waves and interprets these as being a smaller, locally-sourced earthquakes close by.  

Why do we get “Ghost Quakes”?

These quakes are an unfortunate side effect of getting information out to the public as quickly as possible, instead of waiting up to a quarter of an hour for a person to locate and ensure these are authentic earthquakes. This started when we introduced “GeoNet Rapid”; the up side is that the system is highly efficient and quick with earthquake reporting times of just minutes after the quakes.

It is sharply arriving S-waves - that our automated system confuses for P-waves - that are causing the incorrectly reported earthquakes. Our seismologists are easily able to see the confusion and gradually mop up the false earthquakes on the website.

How can we stop “Ghost Quakes”?

We are working on it but it's tricky. If we make the system too picky on the quakes it reports, we might not get rapid information about real earthquakes that occur. If we let it report on whatever information it picks up, we get “ghost quakes”. At GeoNet, we have erred on the side of speedy reporting of everything because we know how important it is to get information as quickly as possible to everyone.

Having said that, we are working on finding out what we can do to better identify them  and so exorcise  “ghost quakes” from our system. Until then, please be patient with us, and keep up the sense of humour, New Zealand!

 (Image: provided by Stuff.co.nz) 

It's a question we get a lot here at GeoNet given that all of New Zealand's significant earthquakes in the past few years - Canterbury, Cook Strait and Eketahuna - have struck on previously unknown faults. And the answer is... complicated.

There are currently four simple ways to tell if a fault exists: we can see it (land deformation), we've heard about it (it's in our written or oral histories), we've dug into the ground and can see it in the soils and rocks, or we've recorded an earthquake on it (read below why this isn't necessarily useful for finding large faults). If it's not one of those four ways, it becomes difficult to know if a fault exists in an area and if it can cause a significant earthquake. There is a fifth way but I'll get to that in a moment...

How often do earthquakes happen on previously unknown faults?

Unfortunately the answer is a lot; a magnitude 6-7 earthquake occurring on an already identified fault is the exception rather than the rule. Luckily, the odds of larger earthquakes occurring on identified faults are much better; once we look into magnitude 7.8+ earthquakes, researchers are confident that all faults in New Zealand capable of these sized quakes have already been identified and mapped. Why? Because we can see them clearly in our landscape. A big earthquake requires a fault of significant length; large faults with the potential to generate magnitude 7.8+ earthquakes - like the Alpine Fault - will form a significant feature of New Zealand's landscape and are therefore much easier to find.

Earthquakes are happening all the time - don't they show us where faults are?

As we all well know after the Canterbury quakes, parts of the country can be relatively quiet for decades but still capable of large quakes; we'd need 20,000 years' worth of earthquake records to have the complete picture!

Every earthquake happens on a fault, and with a searchable database of over 480,000 earthquakes we know where a lot of faults are. The trouble is that all these earthquakes don't nicely line up and illuminate individual sub-surface faults. The accompanying map showing just three years of shallow earthquakes in the middle of the country illustrates this. Also, as large quakes are infrequent, only 30,000 of the 480,000 are magnitude 4+ quakes so it's impossible to know whether the small quakes are occurring on a small fault, or they're small quakes occurring on a small portion of a larger fault.

Our current New Zealand active faults database contains 532 mapped faults that are capable of magnitude 6+ earthquakes. Although the amount of known active faults has increased significantly in the last few decades, there are still a large number of unknown faults capable of producing large earthquakes. Some research conducted by Dr. Andy Nicol at GNS Science suggests that there could be as many as 3500-4000 faults around the country capable of producing magnitude 6+ earthquakes, though the vast majority of these faults will be in remote areas of the country.

How come we, the people paid to know where faults are and what will happen, don't know?

The reason that so many faults are still undetected is that faults capable of magnitude 6-7 earthquakes aren't present at the Earth's surface and are therefore difficult to map. Earthquakes generally originate at depths greater than 5km, so only the very large, long-lived faults fracture rock all the way up to the surface. Faults that do not reach the surface are called 'blind' faults, and we aren't the only country with this problem. Other seismically active places around the world also have to contend with significant earthquakes occurring on these unknown blind faults. One famous example was the magnitude 6.7 Northridge Earthquake that struck suburban northern Los Angeles in the early morning of 17th January 1994. The quake resulted in 60 deaths, and more than 40,000 damaged buildings. Although it was widely known that California has many faults, this particular fault and its proximity to the densely populated city was unknown.

Finding all of the potentially thousands of blind faults in New Zealand is currently impossible. Geophysical surveys - similar to rudimentary MRI scans - are the way we traditionally find blind faults. These surveys look to find layers of rock offset below the surface. Although the technology does exists for us to go out and find most blind faults capable of large earthquakes, currently it would be prohibitively expensive to do this over the whole country. Even using this technology, faults which move very infrequently, like the Greendale fault - one of the faults responsible for kick-starting the Canterbury earthquake sequence - are particularly hard to identify as the subsurface rock layers are minimally offset.

Scientists do sometimes carry out such geophysical surveys to understand earthquake risk and to gain a better understanding of New Zealand's subsurface, and generally focus on finding faults that have the highest potential for devastation, especially in areas near high population and/or high likelihood of earthquakes. Geophysical surveys are also carried out by industries (such as oil and gas) and are utilised by scientists looking for earthquake generating faults. Surveys from the oil industry were used to locate faults around the Canterbury Plains (the Greendale Fault was not found, but other faults were known pre-2010). So this approach certainly isn't perfect.

So what do we do all day if we can't tell you where all faults are?

Researchers tackle the problem of unknown faults in a few ways. Firstly, they understand that knowing where these individual faults are only goes so far; we'd also need to know how often large quakes reccur on that particular fault, and when the last big one was on that fault. Research focusing on tectonic regions as a whole can offer more relevant insights into different areas' earthquake potential. We know that areas like Wellington and the Alpine Fault accumulate more strain at a faster rate from the collision of tectonic plates than other areas of the country (and therefore must release this strain more often via earthquakes). Secondly, as large earthquakes are inevitable (but infrequent), researchers focus on ways to mitigate the effects, such as building design and developing resilient communities.

Right now, it is like playing a constant game of catch-up with the earth, knowing that it has billions of years ahead of you and you only have 50 years of research behind you to unravel its secrets. We want to be able to tell everyone one day where all the faults are in New Zealand, when these will rupture and how big they will be, but until we can do this, it is important for all of us to be prepared for earthquakes.

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Do you want to about how we at GNS Science prepare for earthquakes in our own homes?

For those of us in the middle of the country, it was hard to miss that mid-2013 to early 2014 was an especially active period when it came to earthquakes. It kicked off in July 2013 with the Cook Strait sequence – which included magnitude 6.0, 6.5, and 6.6 earthquakes – followed by the magnitude 6.2 Eketahuna earthquake in January 2014, and the magnitude 5.2 Waipukurau quake in March 2014.

2013 was also an especially active time for ‘silent earthquakes’, also called slow-slip events, which are similar to earthquakes as they involve fault movement. However, unlike earthquakes which occur in a matter of seconds, slow-slip events happen over weeks to months. In the last decade, slow-slip events have been discovered at plate boundaries around the world and GeoNet’s continuously operating GPS network in New Zealand has enabled the detection of slow-slip events at the North Island's Hikurangi subduction zone.

Last year four slow-slip events occurred around the North Island, including the largest slow-slip event ever recorded in New Zealand - it was offshore from the Kapiti Coast and equivalent to a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. A slow-slip event in Hawke’s Bay, equivalent to a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, was the largest on record for that region. Just like earthquakes, slow-slip events release strain, but without our GPS instruments, slow-slip events would be unreported as they can’t be felt and do not noticeably deform the ground. Nevertheless, the altered stresses around a slow-slip event can impact shallower faults that break via traditional earthquakes.

The extent to which recent slow-slip activity is related to the recent large earthquakes (and vice versa) is an area of active research, as we learn more about these relatively new phenomena (see below).

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Exactly what is an slow-slip event? Read this article

The slow-slip events of 2013

Kapiti

The Kapiti event started in early 2013 and is still going on. It is New Zealand’s largest slow-slip event ever recorded, equivalent to a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. We have 12 years of records in this region, which show three Kapiti events, each occurring roughly every five years. So far, this current event has as much as 25cm of movement over an area approximately 100km by 200km. The previous event in 2008 was equivalent to a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, but the movement was more concentrated: 30cm of movement over a smaller area near Kapiti Island. The 2013 slow-slip event evolved over the course of the year, moving north-eastward towards the North Island, with movement diminishing in late 2013-early 2014.

 

 

Hawke’s Bay

In February 2013, Hawke’s Bay experienced the largest slow-slip event for the region in a decade of recording. This slow-slip event occurred over several days and was the equivalent to a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. It was also associated with a swarm of over 100 earthquakes larger than magnitude 3 recorded during the period of slow slip, with the largest being of magnitude 4.8. These earthquakes occurred over a period of hours, and migrated deeper over time.

Gisborne

Two slow-slip events were recorded in the Gisborne region in 2013: one in July, the other in October. Both events were smaller than the Kapiti and Hawke’s Bay slow-slip events. The July slow-slip event occurred to the northeast of Gisborne, whereas the October event occurred to the south. The amount of movement and exact location of these events are not precisely known yet, but a temporary deployment of sensors on the ocean bottom placed offshore from Gisborne are being retrieved this week, and these should have captured how these events deformed the seafloor above. While these sensors are being retrieved, a larger set of ocean bottom pressure sensors and seismometers are being deployed as part of a joint NZ/USA/Japan project. These will offer our best insight yet into Gisborne slow-slip events - read a blog of the deployment here.

The relationship between slow-slip events and earthquakes

There are several examples from both New Zealand and overseas of earthquake swarms accompanying slow-slip events. Because slow-slip events occur over a large area, the amount of stress they transfer to other faults is diffuse. This is unlike a large traditional earthquake that has a large stress transfer concentrated in a relatively small region. For this reason, a magnitude 7.1 slow-slip event is probably not going to have anywhere near the associated triggered earthquake activity that we saw after the magnitude 7.1 Darfield earthquake, but it will increase stress in surrounding areas, and could push an already stressed fault closer to rupture. In essence, it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. This is possibly what happened with the January 2014 Eketahuna quake, where the Kapiti slow-slip event loaded stress on the fault that broke. The fault in the Eketahuna earthquake would most likely have ruptured in the near future, but the added stress may have caused it to rupture earlier.

It is important to note a few caveats when looking at the transferred stress events from slow-slip events (or regular earthquakes):

  • Slow-slip events do not universally increase stress on surrounding faults, they also relieve stress in some areas, and therefore may postpone an earthquake in an area of decreased stress.
  • As we can’t directly measure the plate movement (because it is well below the surface and most often offshore) we have to use models to determine what is going on and how the stress is being distributed. As such, the model will hopefully give a good indication, but will not be perfect, as there are many details that we cannot resolve using solely land-based instruments.

Why we care when slow slip causes no shaking

Before discovering slow-slip events, earthquakes were thought to be the only way the Earth’s crust could relieve the pent-up stresses caused by the moving tectonic plates. With the discovery of slow-slip events, this thinking has been drastically altered, as slow-slip events accommodate a large proportion of the effects of the converging plates without knocking a single ornament off a shelf. Slow-slip events in themselves don't pose any risk to people, but they are a major part of how the tectonic plates move in a subduction zone. The other major part is earthquakes. So if we better understand the slow-slip events, we should better understand the earthquake potential of subduction zones.

The subduction zones where slow-slip events occur (in our case where the Pacific and Australian plates meet) are responsible for generating the world’s largest earthquakes – ‘great earthquakes’ or ‘mega-thrust earthquakes’ – which have a magnitude greater than 8. These types of earthquakes can also produce tsunami with deadly consequences as we’ve seen in recent times in Japan and Sumatra. Scientists think that a future mega-thrust earthquake with a magnitude of 8 or larger is possible on New Zealand’s northern subduction zone – the Hikurangi subduction zone. An earthquake this large would produce damaging shaking for much of the North Island, and could produce a significant tsunami affecting much of the country (and also some coastal regions around the Pacific). However, scientists still don’t know how much, and how often, the Hikurangi subduction zone ruptures in megathrust quakes. The best evidence at the moment suggests they are relatively rare, happening every 1500 years. This is an area of active scientific research in New Zealand, and the more we know about the slow-slip events, the more we understand the subduction zone as a whole, and ultimately the better prepared we, and other nations, can be.

GeoNet operates a network of two hundred GPS ground receivers. How is precise-positioning information useful to seismology?

I have recently read an excellent article by John Stenmark that answers this question. It has the added bonus of using examples from our part of the world:

Precise to a fault: How GPS revolutionized seismic research

With this week's large earthquake and our joint messages on preparedness, we thought you might be wondering how earthquake scientists prepare their own homes for earthquakes. What's in their emergency supplies? How do they brace their televisions and shelves? How do they strengthen their own homes?

Well, we have asked a few of our earth scientists and here is what we found out ...

GNS Scientists : Earthquake preparations at home

What has happened?

The M6.2 Eketahuna quake struck at 3:52 pm on Monday, 20th January 2014, centered 15 km east of Eketahuna, in the Wairarapa, New Zealand. The quake was felt strongly in both islands, and we have received over 9000 felt reports from the public, with multiple reports of damage from those closest to the quake. The focal mechanism shows it to be a normal fault earthquake.

What will happen next?

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Much of the original content from this story has been moved to the 'Eketahuna Future Scenarios and Aftershocks' in the Eketahuna Earthquake section of our website, where it will be updated as the sequence progresses.

 

Ongoing Research

In research published in 1994 by GNS Science, a slow-slip event (SSE) was thought to have affected the stress on the faults associated with the Weber 1990 earthquakes. There is currently a SSE beneath the Kapiti coastline, which has been in progress since early 2013. Preliminary calculations of stress change indicate that this ongoing Kapiti SSE may be causing changes in stress beneath the Tararua and Wairarapa region. Research relating to SSEs and their relationship to earthquakes is ongoing here at GNS Science and elsewhere around the world.

 

What to do during an earthquake

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The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management advised that the best action during an earthquake is to "drop, cover and hold". "If you are inside, move no more than a few steps and do not try to run outside. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit," Director John Hamilton said. In most buildings in New Zealand, it is safer to stay where you are until the shaking stops, Mr Hamilton said.

More information about what to do before, during and after an earthquake is at www.getthru.govt.nz

The Earthquake Commission advised that as aftershocks continue, it's important to fix and fasten any large furniture or valuables in homes to keep families safe. The location, timing and intensity of earthquakes cannot be predicted, but people can take steps to help them be prepared for when earthquakes occur.

One step is to visit the EQC website and look through information in the 'Fix. Fasten. Don't Forget' section.

EQC General Manager of Reinsurance, Research and Education, Hugh Cowan, says "It's important that people make the necessary changes to help protect their loved ones and their homes and contents if an earthquake happens. As we learned in the Canterbury earthquakes, securing a large wardrobe, television or chimney can save lives." Your city or district council is responsible for civil defence in your area. You can get more information about hazards in your area from your council and on the GNS Science and GeoNet websites.


On January 20 at 15:52, an earthquake with a magnitude M6.2 struck at a depth of about 33km approximately 15 km east of Eketahuna in the Wairarapa.

Summary

The Eketahuna quake struck at 3:52 pm on Monday afternoon, and was centered 15 km east of Eketahuna, under the south-east of the North Island. The quake was felt strongly in both islands,  and we have received over 9000 felt reports from the public, with multiple reports of damage. The focal mechanism shows it to be a normal fault earthquake.

An aftershock sequence is ongoing following this earthquake and includes numerous magnitude 4 events. As with any aftershock sequence, we cannot rule out the possibility of occurrence of future larger earthquakes.

What are the probabilities of future significant earthquakes?

 Up-to-date aftershock forecasts are now located on the 'Eketahuna Future Scenarios and Aftershocks' page in the News Section of our website.

 

Current Research

Current depth and location estimates of this event place it below the interface between the subducting Pacific plate and overriding Australian plate. Maximum peak ground acceleration recorded by GeoNet instruments is about one quarter of the acceleration due to gravity (0.26 g). This measurement was recorded in Woodville. Relatively strong shaking was also recorded on the Kapiti Coast (e.g. up to 0.2 g in Paraparaumu) whereas accelerations recorded in Wellington city were less than 0.05 g. In comparison, ground motions recorded in Wellington during the recent Cook Strait earthquakes ranged up to 0.26 g.

The seismology team at GNS Science is also attempting to understand the earthquakes in the context of recent and ongoing seismicity. Specifically, efforts are aimed at comparing the current earthquakes with a sequence of events that occurred to the north of Eketahuna in the early 1990s. We are also considering possible links to the ongoing Kapiti slow-slip event.

The likelihood of a larger triggered event in the coming weeks is minor. However, it is possible and we should all take this opportunity to review our earthquake emergency plans.

 

What are the numbers so far?

Numbers of Eketahuna region earthquakes

Magnitude range15:52 pm, 20 January 2014 to
08:40 am, 27 January 2014*
6.0 - 6.91
5.0 - 5.90
4.0 - 4.98
3.0 - 3.975
below 3.01205
TOTAL1289
*This table will no longer be updated. Up-to-date aftershock tables are in 'Our News' section

GeoNet Response

 

A summary of the major earthquakes affecting New Zealand in 2013.

On Friday, 19 July, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake located in Cook Strait was felt strongly throughout the lower North Island and upper South Island. This quake was 25 km east of Seddon and at a depth of 16 km, and was felt from Auckland to Otago, with reports of minor damage such as items falling from shelves reported in Marlborough, Nelson and Wellington. This was the first of a complex sequence of earthquakes that continued to shake the area for the following several weeks, and for which smaller aftershocks still continue. It was followed on the morning of Sunday, 21 July, by a similarly located event of magnitude 5.8, and then 10 hours later, at 5:09 pm, by another of magnitude 6.5.  

This quake, known as the Seddon earthquake, resulted in varying degrees of damage to thirty-five buildings within the Wellington CBD, with glass from broken windows falling onto the main thoroughfare. Instances of moderate to serious building damage were also reported throughout the Wellington region, and in the Seddon area. Four people received minor injuries, and it was reported felt from Northland to Otago. Four aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 to 5.5 and about 70 of magnitude 4.0 to 4.9 followed in the period to 15 August.

At 2:31 pm on 16 August, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake centred at Lake Grassmere, 10 km south-east of Seddon, occurred. This was at a depth of 8 km, and caused significant damage in the epicentral region, including land damage and landslips that blocked several roads, and serious damage to buildings. In Wellington, moderate damage was caused to some buildings and some had to be evacuated. Suburban train services were cancelled and there were traffic jams on major roads. It was reported felt from Auckland to Invercargill. Four minor injuries and one serious medical condition were reported. In the period to 5 September, there were 16 aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater, with one of these of magnitude 6.0 occurring on 16 August. The last aftershock to have been strongly felt was a magnitude 4.7 event on 6 December.

Other significant earthquakes were:

  1. On 1 January, a shallow magnitude 5.0 centred 30 km north-west of Opunake, was felt from Auckland to Nelson, most strongly in the Taranaki region. Minor damage was reported in Stratford. A magnitude 4.3 aftershock shortly later was also felt strongly.
  2. On 16 February, a magnitude 6.3 centred 200 km north of Te Araroa, at a depth of 290 km, was felt from Bay of Plenty to Otago, most strongly in the north-east of the North Island.
  3. On 23 February, a magnitude 4.8 centred 40 km south-east of Wairoa at a depth of 70 km was felt in the Gisborne – Hawkes Bay region.
  4. On 17 March, a magnitude 3.9 earthquake centred 15 km north-east of Auckland, near Motutapu Island, and at a depth of 6 km was felt strongly throughout the Auckland region. There were several reports of minor damage such as items falling from shelves. Close to 14,000 felt reports were submitted for this event. It was preceded a few minutes earlier by a similarly located magnitude 3.1 that was also widely felt in Auckland.
  5. On 4 July, a magnitude 5.3 at a depth of 5 km and centred 25 km north-west of Milford Sound was felt from Southland to the West Coast, most strongly in Queenstown and Oamaru.
  6. On 8 July, a shallow magnitude 4.9 centred 25 km north-east of Waipukurau was felt from East Cape to Christchurch.
  7. On 29 July, a 9 km deep magnitude 4.7 centred 20 km north-west of Culverdon in North Canterbury was felt from Taranaki to Otago.
  8. On 17 December, a magnitude 6.2 centred 30 km off the south-west coast of Fiordland at a depth of 25 km was felt from Stewart Island to Wellington. No damage was reported.

Two earthquakes centred in the Kermadec Islands region were felt widely in New Zealand. On 12 August, a magnitude 6.1 quake at a depth of 340 km was felt from Auckland to Invercargill, most strongly in Wellington, and on 12 October, a magnitude 6.2 quake at a depth of 150 km was felt from Auckland to Marlborough, mainly along the east coast of the North Island.  

Christchurch activity continued at a low level in 2013, with three aftershocks of magnitude 4.6 being the largest recorded. The latest on 18 November caused a few instances of minor damage.

No significant swarm activity occurred during 2013.

The GeoNet Duty Team responded to a tsunami alert following the Santa Cruz Island (Solomon Islands) earthquake on 6 February. A marine threat was in place for some coastal area of New Zealand for around eight hours and maximum wave amplitudes of around 20 mm were measure at a number of tsunami gauge sites.

In 2013, there were four earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater, and 66 of magnitude 5.0 to 5.9. About 2,500 earthquakes were reported felt.


GeoNet is a collaboration between the Earthquake Commission and GNS Science.

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