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Detectives at work: Understanding the Hikurangi tectonic plate boundary

4 years ago by Kate Boersen


Recovery of one of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory instruments aboard RV Roger Revelle

National and international scientists have been working on three different research projects that aim to investigate the causes and consequences of previously undetectable tectonic movements, known as slow slip events, at the Hikurangi tectonic plate boundary.

The three projects are all ship based -

  1. The Hikurangi Ocean Bottom Investigation of Tremor and Slow Slip (HOBITSS)
  2. The Subduction Thrust Investigation of New Zealand using Geothermics and Seismics (STINGS) research project have both been
  3. The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP).

These projects all involve the use of very specialised equipment to measure slow slip events and the structure of the tectonic plate boundary.

Slow slip events are also known either as ‘silent earthquakes’, as they are unable to be detected using seismographs, or as ‘slow earthquakes’, as they occur over days to weeks rather than the seconds it takes for a normal earthquake to occur. Slow slip events were first recorded in New Zealand in October 2002 along the Hikurangi tectonic plate boundary.

Learning more about slow slip events will help scientists to know more about the tectonic plate boundary and help them to map the edge of the tectonic plates. This will help to provide some indication of where a major earthquake is most likely to occur and its possible size.

You can read more here