Geological evidence for past large earthquakes and tsunamis along the Hikurangi subduction margin, New Zealand
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Geological evidence for past large earthquakes and tsunamis along the Hikurangi subduction margin, New Zealand

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  • Journal Title:
    Marine Geology
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    The Hikurangi subduction margin, New Zealand, has not produced large subduction earthquakes within the short written historic period (~180 years) and the potential of the plate interface to host large (M > 7) to great (M > 8) earthquakes and tsunamis is poorly constrained. The geological record of past subduction earthquakes offers a method for assessing the location, frequency and approximate magnitude of subduction earthquakes to underpin seismic and tsunami hazard assessments. We review evidence of Holocene coseismic coastal deformation and tsunamis at 22 locations along the margin. A consistent approach to radiocarbon age modelling is used and earthquake and tsunami evidence is ranked using a systematic assessment of the quality of age control and the certainty that the event in question is an earthquake. To identify possible subduction earthquakes, we use temporal correlation of earthquakes, combined with the type of earthquake evidence, likely primary fault source and the earthquake certainty ranking. We identify 10 past possible subduction earthquakes over the past 7000 years along the Hikurangi margin. The last subduction earthquake occurred at 520–470 years BP in the southern Hikurangi margin and the strongest evidence for a full margin rupture is at 870–815 years BP. There are no apparent persistent rupture patches, suggesting segmentation of the margin is not strong. In the southern margin, the type of geological deformation preserved generally matches that expected due to rupture of the interseismically locked portion of the subduction interface but the southern termination of past subduction ruptures remains unresolved. The pattern of geological deformation on the central margin suggests that the region of the interface that currently hosts slow slip events also undergoes rupture in large earthquakes, demonstrating different modes of slip behaviour occur on the central Hikurangi margin. Evidence for subduction earthquakes on the northern margin has not been identified because deformation signals from upper plate faults dominate the geological record. Large uncertainties remain in regard to evidence of past subduction earthquakes on the Hikurangi margin, with the greatest challenges presented by temporal correlation of earthquake evidence when working within the uncertainties of radiocarbon ages, and the presence of upper plate faults capable of producing deformation and tsunamis similar to that expected for subduction earthquakes. However, areas of priority research such as improving the paleotsunami record and integration of submarine turbidite records should produce significant advances in the future.
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    Marine Geology, 412 : 139-172
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