Paleoseismicity and Rupture Characteristics of the Greendale Fault and Formation of the Canterbury Plains
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The previously unknown Greendale Fault was buried beneath the Canterbury Plains and ruptured in the September 4th 2010 moment magnitude (Mw) 7.1 Darfield Earthquake. The Darfield Earthquake and subsequent Mw 6 or greater events that caused damage to Christchurch highlight the importance of unmapped faults near urban areas. This thesis examines the morphology, age and origin of the Canterbury Plains together with the paleoseismology and surface-rupture displacement distributions of the Greendale Fault. It offers new insights into the surface-rupture characteristics, paleoseismology and recurrence interval of the Greendale Fault and related structures involved in the 2010 Darfield Earthquake. To help constrain the timing of the penultimate event on the Greendale Fault the origin and age of the faulted glacial outwash deposits have been examined using sedimentological analysis of gravels and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating combined with analysis of GPS and LiDAR survey data. OSL ages from this and other studies, and the analysis of surface paleochannel morphology and subsurface gravel deposits indicate distinct episodes of glacial outwash activity across the Canterbury Plains, at ~20 to 24 and ~28 to 33 kyr separated by a hiatus in sedimentation possibly indicating an interstadial period. These data suggest multiple glacial periods between ~18 and 35 kyr which may have occurred throughout the Canterbury region and wider New Zealand. A new model for the Waimakariri Fan is proposed where aggradation is mainly achieved during episodic sheet flooding with the primary river channel location remaining approximately fixed. The timing, recurrence interval and displacements of the penultimate surface-rupturing earthquake on the Greendale Fault have been constrained by trenching the scarp produced in 2010 at two locations. These excavations reveal a doubling of the magnitude of surface displacement at depths of 2-4 m. Aided by OSL ages of sand lenses in the gravel deposits, this factor-of-two increase is interpreted to indicate that in the central section of the Greendale Fault the penultimate surface-rupturing event occurred between ca. 20 and 30 kyr ago. The Greendale Fault remained undetected prior to the Darfield earthquake because the penultimate fault scarp was eroded and buried during Late Pleistocene alluvial activity. The Darfield earthquake rupture terminated against the Hororata Anticline Fault (HAF) in the west and resulted in up to 400 mm of uplift on the Hororata Anticline immediately above the HAF. Folding in 2010 is compared to Quaternary and younger deformation across the anticline recorded by a seismic reflection line, GPS-measured topographic profiles along fluvial surfaces, and river channel sinuosity and morphology. It is concluded that the HAF can rupture during earthquakes dissimilar to the 2010 event that may not be triggered by slip on the Greendale Fault. Like the Greendale Fault geomorphic analyses provide no evidence for rupture of the HAF in the last 18 kyr, with the average recurrence interval for the late Quaternary inferred to be at least ~10 kyr. Surface rupture of the Greendale Fault during the Darfield Earthquake produced one of the most accessible and best documented active fault displacement and geometry datasets in the world. Surface rupture fracture patterns and displacements along the fault were measured with high precision using real time kinematic (RTK) GPS, tape and compass, airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR), and aerial photos. This allowed for detailed analysis of the cumulative strike-slip displacement across the fault zone, displacement gradient (ground shear strain) and the type of displacement (i.e. faulting or folding). These strain profiles confirm that the rupture zone is generally wide (~30 to ~300 metres) with >50% of displacement (often 70-80%) accommodated by ground flexure rather than discrete fault slip and ground cracking. The greatest fault-zone widths and highest proportions of folding are observed at fault stepovers.