Research aiming to shed light on seismic hazard gets EQC funding

Research aiming to shed light on seismic hazard gets EQC funding | Insurance Business

Research aiming to shed light on seismic hazard gets EQC funding

The devastating Kaikoura Earthquake, which struck New Zealand in 2016, led to discussions among scientists internationally as to why it ruptured more than 17 active faults but did not break some others in the area of the quake.

Now, according to the Earthquake Commission (EQC), Structural Geology professor Andy Nicol, of the University of Canterbury, is being funded to study this mystery, and what it could mean for forecasting future earthquakes.

“What happened in Kaikōura has really got earthquake scientists around the world talking,” Nicol said. “The Kaikōura quake is well-known as one of the most complex earthquakes ever recorded. The big question is, why did some faults rupture and not others?”

Nicol said faults build up stress over time, and eventually rupture as an earthquake. Seen over a long, long time – maybe tens of thousands of years – there is a cycle for a fault.

The idea is that Nicol’s team will be comparing cycles for some faults that ruptured in the quake with some that didn’t. By testing the idea, the researchers believe it could help forecast the timing, location and complexity of a quake in the future.

EQC general manager, resilience, Hugh Cowan, meanwhile, said Nicol’s work is an exciting area of research with practical applications for planners and emergency management.

“It will help build a more accurate picture of how faults behave and when faults might rupture,” Cowan noted. “This kind of science is painstaking but contributes to useable knowledge that can help reduce the impact of earthquakes on people and property.

“There are a lot of people here and overseas with a keen interest in Professor Nicol’s research,” he added.

However, Nicol said the research will take quite a bit of detective work.

His team consists of 14 researchers from the University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, GNS Science, and Geoscience in Australia. 

“At this stage we have no idea if our theory explains what happened in the Kaikōura earthquake,” he explained.

“We’ll be getting a lot of support from GNS with the analysis to see if the evidence backs up the theory.

“Our aim is to contribute new insights to seismic hazard analysis to help forecast where else might rupture when there is a sizeable earthquake,” Nicol added.

EQC funds $16 million of research annually to reduce the impact of natural disasters on people and property. This project is funded through EQC’s 2018 Biennial Research Grants.


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