Fault Model Construction

Lloyd Homer, GNS Science

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Fault Model Construction

State Active
Duration 2019 – 2024
Budget / Funding $1983000
Project Leader(s)
University of Canterbury
GNS Science


The development of a million-year catalogue of ‘synthetic’ earthquakes that can shape the next generation of earthquake and tsunami hazard models for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Project description

The complete cycle of Aotearoa New Zealand’s earthquake activity spans thousands of years. Modern observations and data only cover the last few decades. This, combined with the incompleteness of geological information, means researchers have not captured the entire range of possible earthquakes, especially the largest, most devastating events.

To overcome this gap, our research team has created computational models of hundreds of thousands of years of ‘synthetic’ earthquakes.

To do this, we use existing geological and geophysical data to build a three-dimensional computer model of Aotearoa New Zealand and its faults and then use computer calculations to simulate forces that cause earthquakes. When the forces acting on a fault overcome its strength, this triggers a ‘synthetic’ earthquake. Researchers can then see how the synthetic earthquake redistributes stress onto other faults and leads to other earthquakes.

The catalogue provides researchers with a more complete record of Aotearoa New Zealand’s earthquakes with which to develop future earthquake and tsunami hazard models.

Our goal is to improve our estimates of the likelihood of further large earthquakes throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Resource Outputs from this project


Earthquake timings and fault interactions in central New Zealand.

Using radiocarbon dates to identify possible large paleoseismic multi-fault ruptures and/or earthquake clusters in central New Zealand and their implications for seismic hazard.

View Article

Towards an Automated Workflow for the Creation of Complex 3D Fault Models.

A new, less labour-intensive method for developing models of fault geometry and connectivity.

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Using simulated earthquakes to prepare for the next ‘big one’

'Synthetic' earthquakes are helping scientists understand Aotearoa's full earthquake cycle, and what the next big damaging quake might look like.

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An earthquake simulator for New Zealand

Shaw, B.E., Fry, B., Nicol, A., Howell, A. & Gerstenberger, M.C. 2022. An earthquake simulator for New Zealand. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America,…

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Presentation slides, ‘Next generation earthquake and tsunami hazard and response’ webinar

Dr Andy Nicol and Dr Bill Fry presentations, 'Next generation earthquake and tsunami hazard and response' webinar, March 2021

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Next Generation Earthquake & Tsunami Hazard and Response

Researchers have used earthquake cycle simulators to overcome many of the challenges posed by limited modern observations of large earthquakes.

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