Estimating co-seismic subsidence in the Hutt Valley resulting from rupture of the Wellington Fault, New Zealand

Abstract

Ground deformation can contribute significantly to losses in major earthquakes. Areas that suffer permanent ground deformation in addition to strong ground shaking typically sustain greater levels of damage and loss than areas suffering strong ground-shaking alone. The lower Hutt Valley of the Wellington region, New Zealand, is adjacent to the active Wellington Fault. The long-term signal of vertical deformation there is subsidence, and the most likely driver of this is rupture of the Wellington Fault.

In 1855 the Mw ~8.2 Wairarapa Earthquake resulted in uplift of the lower Hutt Valley area and created an expectation that future earthquakes would do the same. However, sediments beneath the lower Hutt Valley floor up to c. 220 thousand years old provide data that when combined with the international sea level curve demonstrate cumulative net subsidence of up to c. 155 m during that period. Recent refinement of rupture parameters for the Wellington Fault (and other faults in the region), based on new field data, has spurred us to reassess estimates of vertical deformation in the Hutt Valley that would result from rupture of the Wellington Fault. Using a logic tree framework, we calculate subsidence for an “average” Wellington Fault event of ~1.9 m near Petone, ~1.7m near Lower Hutt City, ~1.4 m near Seaview, and ~0 m in the Taita area. Such a distribution of vertical deformation would result in large areas of Alicetown-Petone and Moera-Seaview subsiding below sea level. We also calculate and present “minimum” and “maximum” credible subsidence values, which are approximately half and twice the mean values, respectively. This ground deformation hazard certainly has societal implications, and we are working with local and regional councils to develop a range of mitigation strategies.

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Published
2016-09-30
How to Cite
Townsend, D. B., Begg, J. G., Van Dissen, R. J., Rhoades, D. A., Saunders, W. S. A., & Little, T. A. (2016). Estimating co-seismic subsidence in the Hutt Valley resulting from rupture of the Wellington Fault, New Zealand. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 49(3), 283-291. https://doi.org/10.5459/bnzsee.49.3.283-291
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