Neotectonics, Seismic and Tsunami Hazards, Viti Levu, Fiji.
Thesis DisciplineEngineering Geology
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, is located in a seismically active area within the Fiji Platform - a remnant island arc that lies in a diffuse plate boundary zone between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates in the southwest Pacific. The southeast coast of Viti Levu is a highly developed and populated part of Fiji and is vulnerable to the effects of large earthquakes that are expected to occur both onshore and offshore. The structural framework and the origin of seismicity within the Fiji Platform, as well as the seismic and tsunami hazards of central and southeast Viti Levu are investigated. The upper crust of southeast Viti Levu is dissected by several intersecting fault/lineament zones. These are mapped from remote sensing imagery of the surface (topography, radar, and aerial photos) and of the basement (magnetic), and have been subject to rigorous statistical tests of reproducibility and verification with field mapped fault data. Lineaments on the various imagery correlate with faults mapped in the field and show spatial continuity between and beyond mapped faults, thereby providing a fuller coverage of regional structural patterns than previously known. Some fault/lineament zones extend beyond the coastline to the offshore area of southeast Viti Levu. Here high resolution SeaBAT 8160 multibeam bathymetry data and seismic reflection data show that the fault zones occur along, and exert control on the locations of a number of linear submarine canyons. The morpho-structural expression of these canyons are contiguous with fault controlled physiographic features mapped on the nearshore marginal shelf (rectilinear bays and peninsulas, reef passages) and on land (fault valleys, slope and drainage alignments forming lineaments). The canyons are considered to have developed from several cycles of downslope incising and infilling events, whilst their positions were still primarily controlled by zones of weakness created by the fault zones. The principal fault sets in southeast Viti Levu represent generations of regional tectonic faulting that pervaded the Fiji Platform during and after disruption of the proto Fijian arc in the Middle to Late Miocene. These fault sets combine to form a complex network of interlocking faults creating a fault mesh that divides the upper crust into a number of fault blocks ranging from ~2 to 30 km. It is inferred that the fault mesh evolved throughout the Neogene as a response to the anticlockwise rotation of the Fiji Platform through progressive development of different fault sets and intervening crustal block rotations. Regional tectonic deformation is presently accommodated in a distributed manner through the entire fault mesh. Low magnitude earthquakes (<M4) occur regularly and may represent ruptures along short linking segments of the fault mesh, while infrequent larger earthquakes (>M4) may result from complex rupture propagation through several linking fault segments of the mesh that lie close to optimum stress orientations. This interpreted model of distributed deformation through the fault mesh for southeast Viti Levu is inferred to be characteristic of the style of active deformation that occurs throughout the entire Fiji Platform. Seismic activity is primarily responsible for triggering submarine landslides that occur on the southeastern slope of Viti Levu. These slides typically occur on the outer barrier reef edge, as well as in submarine canyon heads and walls, and in the mid slope areas. They are characteristically translational and lack bathymetric evidence for displaced masses. Morphometric analysis and empirical modelling, show that slides triggered at shallow water depths, within 5 km of the coastline, at the outer barrier reef edge and submarine canyon heads, produce the largest near-field tsunami amplitudes. Such slides are interpreted to represent a significant local tsunami hazard. A detailed case study of the destructive 1953 Suva tsunami that followed the Ms 6.75 Suva earthquake, reveals that the source of this tsunami was a 60 million cubic metre submarine landslide at the head of the Suva Canyon, 4 km to the WSW of Suva City. A test simulation of this tsunami using the Geowave tsunami generation, propagation and inundation model, closely replicates the wave heights and arrival times recorded in 1953. This simulation also reveals that high variability in tsunami impact over short coastal distances of southeast Viti Levu is attributable to the complex interplay of wave propagation with the barrier reef system, erratic lagoon bathymetry and the irregularly shaped coastline. A predictive simulation using Geowave, based on an incipient failure in the 1953 source area and on a potentially worse case scenario event at or near high-tide, is used to show a maximum vertical run up of at least 4 m and a maximum horizontal inundation level of at least 400 m at the Suva coast. The seismic hazard of five sites on Viti Levu, including Suva City, Navua and Nausori Towns, and the Monsavu and Nadarivatu dam sites, is evaluated using a deterministic approach, and seven newly identified crustal fault earthquake source structures. The maximum magnitudes interpreted for these structures, estimated using empirical relationships, range from Mw 6.8 to 7.6. The Suva Canyon Fault, the Naqara Fault, the Mavuvu/Fault Lineament Zone and the Nasivi Fault provide the controlling maximum credible earthquakes (CMCE) at all the five sites. The CMCE peak ground acceleration values for Suva City range from 0.4g to 0.6g, for Nausori Town from 0.18g to 0.2g, for Navua Town from 0.27g to 0.32g, for Monasavu from 0.39g to 0.42g, and for Nadarivatu from 0.23g to 0.33g. The horizontal spectral accelerations at a period equal to 0.2 seconds, calculated using the CMCEs, are comparable to accelerations derived by probabilistic methods that have return periods between 50 and over 1000 years.