Earthquake experts in New Zealand are desperately scanning the country in an attempt to discover where the next major tremor might hit. Experts are concerned about a “major multi-fault earthquake”, which is where fault lines trigger other earthquakes in a sort of domino effect, leading to a much more powerful than usual tremor. In 2016, a devastating 7.8 tremor hit the north Canterbury region, in what is known as the Kaikōura quake.
According to experts from New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission (EQC), it is one of the most complex quakes in the country’s history, as an earthquake on one fault triggered others nearby.
If only one of the fault lines had ruptured, the tremor would have been 16 times less powerful.
As a result, experts in New Zealand are undertaking research in an attempt to discover exactly how fault lines trigger one another, and where and when the next might occur.
Dr Tim Stahl, who is overseeing the EQC-funded research at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, said: “Earthquakes that rupture across multiple faults don’t just affect a bigger area, they also add to the amount of energy released, creating stronger quakes.
“So it’s really important to understand more about multi-fault earthquakes.
“When you’re looking at why and where an earthquake might jump across faults, you’re looking at factors like the distance between faults and whether a fault travels straight or on an angle.
“In New Zealand, however, we also want to be able to take into account how our rock types behave under seismic stress and what happens with faults that have been labelled ‘inactive’.
“We really need to get a better idea of where this could happen and the impact it could create on the ground surface, on infrastructure like water and electricity, and on buildings.
“Better models mean that we can give better information on the likelihood and impact of future multi-fault earthquakes to emergency managers, councils, infrastructure providers and the public.”
New Zealand is particularly prone to tremors, with part of the reason being that it sits upon the dreaded Ring of Fire.
The Ring of Fire is the largest and most active fault line in the world, stretching from New Zealand, around the east coast of Asia, over to Canada and the USA and all the way down to the southern tip of South America.
More than 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes fall within the Ring of Fire. The plates which make up the Ring of Fire are so huge even the slightest shift results in massive tremors, volcano activity and tsunamis.
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