The Alpine Fault Earthquake


Natural Event and Human Consequences

Tim Davies Canterbury University

Mauri McSaveney GNS Science

• What’s new?
• The next Great Alpine Fault Earthquake – Why – Where – When – How big – Associated seismicity • Consequences (immediate and delayed) – In the landscape – In society • Mitigation – Now – Later
University of Canterbury GNS Science

What’s new?
1. The Christchurch earthquakes – what do they tell us?
2. Probabilities don’t help much 3. New Alpine fault information

University of Canterbury

GNS Science

The Alpine fault will be ~ 60 x more energetic 3. Liquefaction and site effects are a VERY big deal 5.What does the Christchurch experience tell us? 1. Bad stuff DOES happen – the Alpine fault WILL rupture. Recovery/rebuilding takes much longer than expected University of Canterbury GNS Science . so will the Wellington fault 2. The Chch earthquakes were small – we are VERY vulnerable. Most big earthquakes occur on previously unknown faults – but the Alpine and Wellington faults will be exceptions… 4.

. The Japan earthquake of 11 March was M = 9.Probabilities are based on past data and don’t help much. the event was 8.0.. University of Canterbury GNS Science .4. the expected magnitude was 8.5 Things may be worse than we think. earthquakes are UNPREDICTABLE in time and magnitude So what should we plan for? * What we know CAN happen * At ANY time Chch was much worse than the previous worst-case scenario for the city So was the recent Chile earthquake: the “maximum credible magnitude” was 8.8 – 250% more powerful.

2 instead of 8.. not 7-13 km as previously thought (Beavan et al. However: it appears likely that the rupture will not initiate in the south and propagate northwards – good news? University of Canterbury GNS Science ...New Alpine fault information: depth of seismic rupture ~ 13-18 km. This means the energy released is greater than previously thought. 2010). may be Mw 8.

Our place on the planet’s scheme of things Earth has a mobile surface divided into “tectonic plates” The New Zealand continent is on one of the plate boundaries The Alpine fault connects two “subduction” margins where ocean floor descends into the Earth’s mantle University of Canterbury GNS Science .

The next Great Alpine Fault Earthquake Synthetic isoseismals (MM intensity) for a MW 8 earthquake in South Westland (Smith 2002) ? IX VIII X VII Town HEP ? University of Canterbury VI Alpine pass GNS Science .

A few weak buildings are damaged. The Modified Mercalli (MM) scale University of Canterbury GNS Science . Substantial damage to fragile or unsecured objects. Furniture and appliances are shifted. MM 12: Completely devastating All buildings are damaged and most buildings are destroyed. A few buildings are damaged and some weak buildings are destroyed. MM 9: Destructive Some buildings are damaged and many weak buildings are destroyed. MM 11: Devastating Most buildings are damaged and many buildings are destroyed. MM 10: Very destructive Many buildings are damaged and most weak buildings are destroyed.MM 1: Imperceptible MM 2: Scarcely felt MM 3: Weak MM 4: Largely observed MM 5: Strong MM 6: Slightly damaging MM 7: Damaging General alarm. People experience difficulty standing. MM 8: Heavily damaging Alarm may approach panic.

IX • Closure of alpine passes • Landslides into lakes .tsunami • Landslides into rivers – landslide dams. dambreak floods.Effects east of the Alps • Long-duration (3 – 4 minutes) low-frequency ~ 1 Hz) shaking at MM VII . river sedimentation • Lots of small landslides on hillslopes GNS Science .

00% 0 500 1000 1500 2000 • We are about here • The further we look into the future.When? 0. the less likely it becomes! • Why? • Because it is most likely to occur now! Rupture interval (years) University of Canterbury Probablity GNS Science .05% 0.10% 0.20% 0.15% 0.

But it doesn’t have to! • Probabilities don’t tell us when. and the worse are its consequences University of Canterbury GNS Science . they just tell us how surprised we should be WHEN (not if) it happens • About half of the time it may go more than 400 years between ruptures • But the longer it goes without. the bigger it gets.

We will all feel it.a. University of Canterbury GNS Science .The Next Great Alpine Fault Earthquake • Up to 400 km rupture length (Haast – Ahaura) • Up to 8-m horizontal and 4-m vertical displacement of trace • MW ~ 8+. ~50% in the next 100 years • Damaging aftershocks up to M = 7+ for many months. so a Great Earthquake – not just strong • Duration minutes not seconds • Shaking intensity up to MM XII. 15-20% in next 20 years. even in Sydney • Probability ~1% p.

the bigger it will be Will occur with no recognisable warning Will have disastrous consequences across many regions • Will cause a sudden-onset national emergency of long duration University of Canterbury GNS Science .The Next Great Alpine Fault Earthquake • • • • • • Is due to occur Is more likely today than tomorrow Might not occur for 150 years The longer the delay.

The Next Great Alpine Fault Earthquake • Will alter tectonic stress distribution • Other faults may rupture in days to decades. or rupture on another fault may trigger it • May rupture along part of its length. but followed shortly by rupture of rest • Two large earthquakes is a realistic scenario • Anticipate a series of large earthquakes • There will be large aftershocks anyway University of Canterbury GNS Science . with lower magnitude.

University of Canterbury GNS Science . decreasing with distance.years) • Much ground damage and liquefaction • Countless landslides .all sizes up to many tens of millions of cubic metres from slopes in the MM ≥ IX areas • Landslide dams with breakout floods and aggradation comparable to and exceeding that following 1999 Mt Adams landslide • High sediment inputs to all rivers lasting for > months.Geomorphic consequences • Immediate ground accelerations ~1g near fault. but amplified on ridges and peaks • Less intense shaking in aftershocks (days – months .

• The effects downstream will continue for years University of Canterbury GNS Science .There will be many landslides in the mountains • The landslide from Mount Adams that blocked the Poerua River in 1999 is a small taste of what is to come.

Pourua Valley 2002 River aggradation Poerua Valley 1988 University of Canterbury GNS Science .

Wakatipu? Wanaka? Hawea? Te Anau? Manapouri? Tekapo? Milford Sound? Doubtful Sound? Moana? Kaniere? • Tsunami from delta collapse .Godley? Tasman? Rees/Dart? Cleddau? Matukituki? Makarora? University of Canterbury GNS Science . more flash floods. more sediment input. more river avulsion and sedimentation • Debris flows in many small steep catchments in heavy rain (1 day – 1 year) • A West Coast tsunami . more aggradation.Geomorphic consequences • Landslides in aftershocks for months • More landslide dams.Okarito? Hokitika? Greymouth? Westport? Milford Sound? Doubtful Sound? Australia? • Landslide tsunami .

Geomorphic consequences Tsunami Rock avalanche Dambreak flood Severe sedimentation University of Canterbury GNS Science .

Societal consequences .immediate No bridge design performs well in fault rupture University of Canterbury GNS Science .

University of Canterbury GNS Science .

University of Canterbury GNS Science .

University of Canterbury GNS Science .

immediate • Transalpine surface routes impassable (weeks) • Many mountain roads impassable • Immediate shutdown of all South Island power generation and widespread disruption of reticulation • Widespread damage in the MM > VIII and tsunami zones • Uncontrollable fires • Widespread disabling injuries. medical services overwhelmed. some deaths University of Canterbury GNS Science .Societal consequences .

Societal consequences .months) • Many local economies maintained solely by recovery (weeks years) University of Canterbury GNS Science .immediate • Land.and cell-phones out in many areas • Overseas rescue and medical assistance needed • Severe disruption of all services (water. health. energy. communication.weeks) • Dairy herds unable to be milked. transport. social) (weeks) • People trapped on roads/tracks or in accommodation: need to be looked after where they are (days . no milk transport/processing • Cessation of most commercial activity in many parts of South Island (days . sewerage.

mostly by landslides and spreading of road fill University of Canterbury GNS Science .Some land transportation routes will be cut SH6 crosses the Alpine fault many times. and Haast Pass routes will be cut in many places. Arthur’s. and some bridges are sited on it Lewis.

Sept 2011 With concentrated resources. susceptable major highways can still be out for more than a month with multiple blockages University of Canterbury GNS Science .Not even an earthquake: Manawatu.

access and lack of fuel hamper recovery and redevelopment • Emergency-management capabilities overwhelmed at all levels • Continued overseas assistance needed in recovery (aid.Societal consequences – longer term • Continued disruption of transport and services by aftershocks. river aggradation and flooding (months-years) • Poor communication. slope failures. trades people) • Continued lack of access and fuel on West Coast requires assistance from the west (ships and aircraft) University of Canterbury GNS Science .

Regional . Share theirs • Plan what you will do. Encourage others to do likewise • Find out what your community expects of you and tell them what to (not) expect from you University of Canterbury GNS Science . Community.Mitigation: What can be done now? National . Family • FIND OUT ABOUT THE EVENT • Develop scenarios (worst-case is a useful exercise) • Share your scenarios with other groups.

There will be many buses. All tour buses could carry locators. • E. or redevelop to safer areas University of Canterbury GNS Science . drink.g. businesses. • E. tourists. local population. their passengers can not all be evacuated in a day (week?). Tie down helicopters on the ground • Identify highest-risk locations and gradually strengthen. tour operators. Do things. blankets. … • Don’t just talk about it.g. many may be on the road. food. medical supplies (to last several days).• Increase awareness of the event among schools.

heavy machinery. drivers. mechanics. generators. helicopters. spares. etc etc and maintain electronically and as hard copy available to event controllers University of Canterbury GNS Science . tourists. medical supplies etc) in safe secure locations • Store Bailey bridges by essential river crossings • Inventory machinery. food.• Store all essential supplies (fuel. radios.

that will occur in NZ’s future. Learning to adapt to it is a necessity for sustainable communities. Learning to adapt to ALL of them is a necessity for a sustainable New Zealand University of Canterbury GNS Science . It is only one event of many.This earthquake is a perfectly normal part of New Zealand’s evolution. and many types.

. will be crucial following the Alpine fault earthquake. .... Will the lines be damaged? • Tower foundation stability/security? • Structural integrity of towers in long-duration lowfrequency shaking (including forces transmitted by lines)? • Lines shorting by swinging? Where is reticulation controlled from? University of Canterbury GNS Science . SI generation will shut down – power will need to be reticulated from NI..Electricity reticulation. University of Canterbury GNS Science www.Contact: GNS Science Box 30368 Lower Hutt University of Canterbury Private Bag 4800 Christchurch m.davies@canterbury.

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