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Rethink of hazards after Kaikoura earthquake – Expert reaction

Posted in Expert Reactions

Last November’s Kaikoura earthquake will likely change the way scientists think about earthquake hazards in plate boundary zones, according to the first study to come out of the data collected during and immediately after the earthquake.

Dr Ian Hamling, GNS Science.

The study, led by GNS Science researchers, will be published on Friday in Science. A range of data – including satellite radar imagery – shows that parts of the South Island moved more than five metres closer to the North Island, in addition to uplift of up to eight metres in some places.

GNS Science said the quake was a record-setter for its complexity and was one of the best recorded large earthquakes anywhere in the world.

Lead author, geodesy specialist Dr Ian Hamling, said the complex and lengthy nature of the rupture hampered early attempts to determine an accurate magnitude, which could pose issues for earthquake early warning systems.

He said the earthquake had underlined that conventional seismic hazard models were too simple and restrictive. “The message from Kaikoura is that earthquake science should be more open to a wider range of possibilities when rupture propagation models are being developed.”

The research was covered by local and international media, including: Kaikoura earthquake moved the South Island, new research shows
Radio NZ: Kaikōura quake moved South Island 5 metres
NZ Herald: True damage of 7.8 Kaikoura quake revealed, and could change earthquake research worldwide
TVNZ: Kaikoura quake jolted South Island more than five metres towards the North
BBC: Kaikoura: ‘Most complex quake ever studied’
International Business Times: 
New Zealand’s 2016 Kaikoura earthquake was one of the most complex ever recorded
Science: Strange behavior of New Zealand quake suggests higher chances of ‘Big Ones’ elsewhere

The SMC gathered expert reaction on the study, please feel free to use these comments in your reporting. More information about the study is available on

Dr Mark Quigley, Associate Professor in Earthquake Science, University of Melbourne, comments:

“This is an excellent study that documents the complexity of the Kaikoura earthquake using a suite of different methods and datasets. The use of satellite radar data, GPS, seismology, and field geology is now standard practice after major earthquakes.

“In this case, the large international and multidisciplinary author list has worked well to combine these techniques into a rupture model that demonstrates just how complex earthquake ruptures can be. It is fantastic to have a domestically-led collaborative effort that includes three NZ CRIs and five different NZ universities in such a high-profile journal.

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