Normal Faulting, Volcanism And Fluid Flow, Hikurangi Subduction Plate Boundary, New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis investigates normal faulting and its influence on fluid flow over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales using tunnel engineering geological logs, outcrop, surface fault traces, earthquakes, gravity, and volcanic ages. These data have been used to investigate the impact of faults on fluid flow (chapter 2), the geometry and kinematics of the Taupo Rift (chapter 3), the hydration and dehydration of the subducting Pacific plate and its influence on the Taupo Volcanic Zone (chapter 4), the migration of arc volcanism across the North Island over the 16 Myr and the associated changes in slab geometry (chapter 5) and the Pacific-Australia relative plate motion vectors since 38 Ma and their implications for arc volcanism and deformation along the Hikurangi margin (chapter 6). The results for each of these five chapters are presented in the five paragraphs below.
Tunnels excavated along the margins of the southern Taupo Rift at depths < 500 m provide data on the spatial relationships between faulting and ground water flow. The geometry and hydraulic properties of fault-zones for Mesozoic basement and Miocene strata vary by several orders of magnitude approximating power-law distributions with the dimensions of these zones dependent on many factors including displacement, hostrock type and fault geometries. Despite fault-zones accounting for a small proportion of the total sample length (≤ 15%), localised flow of ground water into the tunnels occurs almost exclusively (≥ 91%) within, and immediately adjacent to, these zones. The spatial distribution and rate of flow from fault-zones are highly variable with typically ≤ 50% of fault-zones in any given orientation flowing. The entire basement dataset shows that 81% of the flow-rate occurs from fault-zones ≥ 10 m wide, with a third of the total flow-rate originating from a single fault-zone (i.e. the golden fracture). The higher flow rates for the largest faults are interpreted to arise because these structures are the most connected to other faults and to the ground surface.
The structural geometry and kinematics of rifting is constrained by earthquake focal mechanisms and by geological slip and fault mapping. Comparison of present day geometry and kinematics of normal faulting in the Taupo Rift (α=76-84°) with intra-arc rifting in the Taranaki Basin and southern Havre Trough show, that for at least the last 4 Myr, the slab and the associated changes in its geometry have exerted a first-order control on the location, geometry, and extension direction of intra-arc rifting in the North Island. Second-order features of rifting in the central North Island include a clockwise ~20° northwards change in the strike of normal faults and trend of the extension direction. In the southern rift normal faults are parallel to, and potentially reactivate, Mesozoic basement fabric (e.g., faults and bedding). By contrast, in the northern rift faults diverge from basement fabric by up to 55° where focal mechanisms indicate that extension is achieved by oblique to right-lateral strike-slip along basement fabric and dip-slip on rift faults.
Hydration and dehydration of the subducting Pacific plate is elucidated by earthquake densities and focal mechanisms within the slab. The hydration of the subducting plate varies spatially and is an important determinant for the location of arc volcanism in the overriding plate. The location and high volcanic productivity of the TVZ can be linked to the subduction water cycle, where hydration and subsequent dehydration of the subducting oceanic lithosphere is primarily accomplished by normal-faulting earthquakes. The anomalously high heat flow and volcanic productivity of the TVZ is spatially associated with high rates of seismicity in the underlying slab mantle at depths of 130-210 km which can be tracked back to high rates of deeply penetrating shallow intraplate seismicity at the trench in proximity to oceanic fluids. Dehydration of the slab mantle correlates with the location and productivity of active North Island volcanic centres, indicating this volcanism is controlled by fluids fluxing from the subducting plate.
The ages and locations of arc volcanoes provide constraints on the migration of volcanism across the North Island over the last 20 Myr. Arc-front volcanoes have migrated southeast by 150 km in the last 8 Ma (185 km since 16 Ma) sub-parallel to the present active arc. Migration of the arc is interpreted to mainly reflect slab steepening and rollback. The strike of the Pacific plate beneath the North Island, imaged by Benioff zone seismicity (50-200 km) and positive mantle velocity anomalies (200-600 km) is parallel to the northeast trend of arc-front volcanism. Arc parallelism since 16 Ma is consistent with the view that the subducting plate beneath the North Island has not rotated clockwise about vertical axes which is in contrast to overriding plate vertical-axis rotations of ≥ 30º. Acceleration of arc-front migration rates (~4 mm/yr to ~18 mm/yr), eruption of high Mg# andesites, increasing eruption frequency and size, and uplift of the over-riding plate indicate an increase in the hydration, temperature, and size of the mantle wedge beneath the central North Island from ~7 Ma.
Seafloor spreading data in conjunction with GPlates have been used to generate relative plate motion vectors across the Hikurangi margin since 38 Ma. Tracking the southern and down-dip limits of the seismically imaged Pacific slab beneath the New Zealand indicates arc volcanism in Northland from ~23 Ma and the Taranaki Basin between ~20 and 11 Ma requires Pacific plate subduction from at (or beyond) the northern North Island continental margin from at least 38 Ma to the present. Pacific plate motion in a west dipping subduction model shows a minimum horizontal transport distance of 285 km preceding the initiation of arc volcanism along the Northland-arc normal to the motion vector, a distance more than sufficient for self-sustaining subduction to occur. Arc-normal convergence rates along the Hikurangi margin doubled from 11 to 23 mm/yr between 20 and 16 Ma, increasing again by approximately a third between 8 and 6 Ma. This latest increase in arc-normal rates coincided with changes in relative plate motions along the entire SW Pacific plate boundary and steepening/rollback of the Pacific plate.