Earthquake and Tsunami


Dr Bill Fry

Programme Co-Leader

GNS Science


Prof Andy Nicol

Programme Co-Leader

The University of Canterbury



The programme aim is to improve the earthquake and tsunami resilience of New Zealand communities through innovative earthquake science. The risk posed to New Zealand’s prosperity from earthquakes and their consequences has been clearly demonstrated through past research and observations of the 2010-2011 Canterbury and 2016 Kaikōura earthquakes. Improving earthquake resilience requires research to better understand earthquake phenomena and their subsequent co-seismic hazards including ground shaking, liquefaction, tsunami and landslides. This increased knowledge will support mitigation of hazards to improve resilience.

The primary goal of the earthquake and tsunami theme is to generate synthetic or virtual earthquakes using physics-based computer models, which will enable new avenues of research to assess and forecast a range of hazards including ground shaking, liquefaction, landslides and tsunami throughout New Zealand.




Fault Model Construction

Project goal: Build an earthquake source model using known active faults from throughout New Zealand and nearby offshore areas. We will test and refine earthquake sources using existing geological, seismological and GPS information, and use the source model to compute millions of synthetic earthquakes unique to New Zealand’s faults and tectonics.
Project leads: Dr Bill Fry (GNS Science) and Prof Andy Nicol (University of Canterbury)


Catalogue Testing and Verification

Project goal: Evaluate the ability of synthetic earthquakes to replicate the statistics of natural earthquakes. Test the sensitivity of the results to changes in model inputs and different modelling approaches, and develop estimates of the likelihood of future large magnitude earthquakes over the next century.

Project leads: Mark Stirling (Otago University) and Matt Gerstenberger (GNS Science)


Probabilistic Tsunami Model

Project goal: Develop models for the likelihood of tsunami hazard using synthetic earthquakes in offshore New Zealand and the Tonga-Kermadec region.

Project leads: William Power (GNS Science) and Emily Lane (NIWA)


Testing Early Warning Systems

Project goal: Test the limitations and utility of earthquake and tsunami early warning systems in New Zealand.

Project leads: Sarah-Jayne McCurrach (Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management) and Caroline Holden (GNS Science)


Ground Motion and Co-seismic Landslide Hazard

Project goal: Improve estimates of topographic amplification and seismically-triggered landslide hazards using synthetic earthquakes.
Project lead: Anna Kaiser and Chris Massey (GNS Science)