Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Repeating Earthquake Detection and Characterisation in New Zealand: A Catalogue for the Raukumara Peninsula, Northern Hikurangi Subduction Margin

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posted on 2021-12-08, 22:49 authored by Laura HughesLaura Hughes

Repeating earthquakes provide a novel way of monitoring how stresses load faults between large earthquakes. In this thesis, we develop a method and composite criterion for identifying repeating earthquakes in New Zealand and present New Zealand’s first long-duration repeating earthquake catalogue. This thesis addresses three primary objectives: (1) develop a method and composite criterion for identifying repeating earthquakes; (2) build a long-duration catalogue of repeating earthquakes for the Raukumara Peninsula; and (3) apply the method and composite criterion in different tectonic settings to investigate whether it can be applied more broadly elsewhere in New Zealand. The systematic identification of repeating earthquakes in New Zealand provides the first step in being able to monitor the state of stresses of New Zealand’s active faults in situ throughout the earthquake cycle.  Studies elsewhere, particularly in Japan and California, have developed case-specific criteria for identifying repeating earthquakes. Building on these studies, we develop a method and composite criterion for identifying repeating earthquakes in New Zealand, focusing on seismicity around the Raukumara Peninsula. Our composite criterion states that for events to be identified as repeating earthquakes, two or more events must have a normalised cross-correlation of at least 0.95 at two or more seismic stations, when calculated for 75% of the earthquake coda. Sensitivity to correlation window length, filtering frequency-band and correlation threshold were tested during the development of the composite criterion. These tests indicated that small perturbations to the parameter thresholds did not affect our ability to detect repeating earthquakes using the composite criterion.  By applying our composite criterion to seismicity around the Raukumara Peninsula, we identified 62 repeating earthquake families occurring between 2003 and 2018, consisting of 160 individual earthquakes. These families have a magnitude range of MW 1.5–4.5, and have recurrence intervals and family durations of < 1–12 years. High-precision absolute and relative locations were calculated using manual phase picks and cross-correlation re-picking. Focal mechanisms for 56 of the families were also determined, using P-wave first motions, revealing predominantly strike-slip and normal faulting at shallow depths, low-angle reverse faulting along the subduction interface, and normal faulting in the subducting plate. We compared the timing of the repeating earthquakes to slow-slip events previously identified using geodetic measurements around the Raukumara Peninsula and observed that repeating earthquakes occurred during 26 of the 31 identified periods of slow-slip. We also compared the seismic moment– recurrence interval relationship of the Raukumara Peninsula repeating earthquakes to that of earthquakes near Parkfield, California, identified by Nadeau and Johnson (1998), and observed a similar functional relationship. Slip-rates of the Raukumara Peninsula repeating earthquake families were also calculated using a slip-rate–moment relationship and were found to vary from < 10mm/yr to 80mm/yr.  We applied the method and composite criterion developed for the Raukumara Peninsula to two other locations to ensure it could be applied successfully in other New Zealand regions with different seismotectonic characteristics. Using our workflow, we successfully identified four families in Marlborough, and three families around Fiordland. These families differ from those identified around the Raukumara Peninsula in that they had relatively short recurrence intervals and family durations, of 2 minutes– 15 months. The ability of the composite criterion to identify these families confirms its suitability for further studies of repeating earthquakes throughout New Zealand.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Institute of Geophysics

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Chamberlain, Calum; Townend, John