Seismologist: Christchurch quake location surprising, more large quakes near city unlikely

February 23, 2011

Though Tuesday’s earthquake in New Zealand wasn’t in itself surprising, the locality so close to southern New Zealand’s largest city did catch many off guard, said a Texas Tech University geophysicists and seismologist.

An measuring 6.3 rocked Christchurch three miles from the city center, and news reports have estimated 75 deaths with more than 100 people still missing.

“The locality beneath Christchurch is definitely surprising, but everything else is not so surprising,” said Hua-wei Zhou, the Pevehouse Chair and Professor of Petroleum Geophysics and Seismology in the Department of Geosciences. “This is the sixth aftershock measuring 5.0 or more since the last big earthquake on Sept. 3, 2010.”

Zhou explained that while the Sept. 3, 2010, earthquake measured 7.0 in magnitude, it happened in a relatively rural area 30 miles west of Christchurch and didn’t cause as much damage. Because of the earthquake’s location and the fault’s motion – a strike-slip motion with plates grinding horizontally with some vertical movement also – this may have intensified the damage in an already heavily populated area.

Because of the historical rarity of earthquakes in the city, Zhou predicted that the Christchurch area most likely wouldn’t experience another earthquake for several years to decades.

In May 2008, Zhou led a team of six graduate students to deploy 60 seismometers near the Three Gorges Dam after an earthquake measuring 7.9 struck the Sichuan province in Central China. Zhou's research interests include improving seismic imaging methods and mapping mantle and crustal seismic structures of various regions.

Explore further: Weaker New Zealand quake packed a deadlier punch

Related Stories

Ill. earthquake a wake-up call

April 20, 2008

A U.S. seismologist said the earthquake that jolted the Midwest Friday is a reminder of the risks seismic events pose outside familiar quake areas.

Earthquakes: Bracing against the shaking

October 8, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- An Arizona State University geotechnical engineer says the U.S. should learn from what New Zealanders did to withstand a recent powerful quake – and how they could have prepared even better.

New quake rattles New Zealand's Christchurch

October 4, 2010

A moderate earthquake measuring 5.2 struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Monday, exactly a month after the country's worst quake in nearly eight decades, US scientists said.

Recommended for you

New study finds nature is vital to beating climate change

October 16, 2017

Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought, according to the most comprehensive assessment to date of how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and stored ...

Waves in lakes make waves in the Earth

October 16, 2017

Beneath the peaceful rolling waves of a lake is a rumble, imperceptible to all but seismometers, that ripples into the earth like the waves ripple along the shore.

Is it gonna blow? Measuring volcanic emissions from space

October 13, 2017

Late last month, a stratovolcano in Bali named Mount Agung began to smoke. Little earthquakes trembled beneath the mountain. Officials have since evacuated thousands of people to prevent what happened when Agung erupted in ...

Tracing subglacial water storage

October 13, 2017

Glaciers are essential to both human and animal health. In fact, 70 percent of the world's population consumes water that has some glacial input. It's important to understand how these icy giants operate, because they impact ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.