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Source Properties of Moderate-Magnitude Earthquakes Along the Alpine Fault, New Zealand

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posted on 22.08.2021, 20:36 by Juarez Garfias, Ilma Del Carmen

The Alpine Fault is a major active continental transform fault that is late in its typical cycle of large earthquakes. Extensive paleoseismic research has revealed that the central segment of the Alpine Fault ruptures in M7+ earthquakes every 291±23 years and last ruptured in 1717 AD. The paleoseismic results also reveal that some places along the fault, which coincide with pronounced along-strike changes in fault characteristics, act as conditional barriers to rupture. The geometry, seismicity rates and geology of the Alpine Fault change along three principal segments (North Westland, Central and South Westland segments) but it is unclear whether source properties (e.g. stress drop) of near-fault seismicity also vary between those fault segments, and whether these properties have some influence on conditional segmentation of the Alpine Faultduring large earthquake rupture.

To examine whether source properties of earthquakes can influence or elucidate the conditional segmentation of Alpine Fault earthquakes, we have computed stress drops of moderate-magnitude earthquakes occurring on and close to the Alpine Fault. We use an empirical Green’s function (EGF) approach and require each EGF earthquake to be highly correlated (cross-correlation ≥0.8) with its respective mainshock. We use data from dense, temporary seismometer networks, including DWARFS (Dense WestlandArrays Researching Fault Segmentation), a new two-part network designed to constrain seismogenic behaviour near key transitional boundaries. Our results investigate the spatial variability of these source properties along the length of the Alpine Fault, focusing on whether earthquakes at the rupture segment boundaries behave differently to those in the middle of previously identified rupture segments.

We analyse individual P- and S-wave measurements of corner frequency and stress drop for 95 earthquakes close to (within 5 km) and on the Alpine Fault. Overall, the calculated stress drops range between 1–352 MPa and show good agreement with other studies both within New Zealand and worldwide. The stress drop values obtained for the three Alpine segment are: 1–143 MPa (median values of 8 and 9 MPa for P- and S-waves, respectively) for the South Westland/Central segment boundary zone, 2–309 MPa (median values of 17 and 39 MPa for P- and S-waves, respectively) for the Central segment and 1–352 MPa (median values of 15 and 19 MPa for P- and S-waves, respectively) for the North Westland/Central segment boundary zone. There are no marked differences in stress drop values along the North Westland and Central segments, but those values are slightly higher than along the South Westland segment.

This may indicate a bigger difference in fault geometry, slip and seismicity rate compare with other segments, or that the South Westland segment is weaker than the other segments. We see no clear dependence of stress drop values on depth, magnitude or focal mechanism.


Advisor 1

Townend, John

Advisor 2

Warren-Smith, Emily

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences