Holocene surface-faulting earthquakes along the Porters Pass fault (2001)
AuthorsHoward, Matthew Edwardshow all
The Porters Pass fault (PPF) is a prominent element of the Porters Pass-Amberley Fault Zone (PPAFZ) which forms a broad zone of active earth deformation ca 100 km long, 60-90 km west and north of Christchurch. For a distance of ca 40 km the PPF is defined by a series of discontinuous Holocene active traces between the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers. The amount of slip/event and the timing of paleoearthquakes are crucial components needed to estimate the earthquake potential of a fault. Movement was assumed to be, coseismic and was quantified by measuring displaced geomorphic features using either tape measure or surveying equipment. Clustering of offset data suggests that four to five earthquakes occurred on the PPF during the Holocene and these range between ca 5-7 m/event. Timing information was obtained from four trenches excavated across the fault and an auger adjacent to the fault. Organic samples from these sites were radiocarbon dated and used in conjunction with data from previous studies to identify the occurrence of at least four earthquakes at 8500 ± 200, 5300 ± 700, 2500 ± 200 and 1000 ± 100 years B.P. Evidence suggests that an additional event is also possible at 6200 ± 500 years B.P. The ~1000, 5300 and 6200 years B.P. paleoearthquakes were previously unrecognised, while the 500 year event previously inferred from rock-avalanche data has been discarded. The present data set produces recurrence intervals of ~2000-2500 years for the Holocene. The identification of only one Holocene PPF rupture to the west of Red Lakes indicates the presence of a segment boundary that prevents the propagation of rupture beyond this point. This is consistent with displacement data and results in slip rates of 0.5-0.7 mm/yr and 2.5-3.4 mm/yr to the west and east of Red Lakes respectively. It is possible that the nearby extensional Red Hill Fault influences PPF rupture propagation. The combination of geometric, slip rate and timing data has enabled the magnitude of prehistoric earthquakes on the PPF to be estimated. These magnitudes range from an average of between 6.9 for a fault rupture from Waimakariri River to Red Lakes, to a maximum of 7.4 that ruptures the entire length of the PPAFZ, including the full length of the PPF. These estimates are approximately consistent with previous magnitude estimates along the full length of the PPAFZ of between 7.0 and 7.5.