Paleotsunamis on the Southern Hikurangi Subduction Zone, New Zealand, Show Regular Recurrence of Large Subduction Earthquakes

Charlotte Pizer, Kate Clark, Jamie Howarth, Ed Garrett, Xiaoming Wang, David Rhoades, Sarah Woodroffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Geological records of subduction earthquakes, essential for seismic and tsunami hazard assessment, are difficult to obtain at transitional plate boundaries, because upper-plate fault earthquake deformation can mask the subduction zone signal. Here, we examine unusual shell layers within a paleolagoon at Lake Grassmere, at the transition zone between the Hikurangi subduction zone and the Marlborough fault system. Based on biostratigraphic and sedimentological analyses, we interpret the shell layers as tsunami deposits. These are dated at 2145–1837 and 1505–1283 yr B.P., and the most likely source of these tsunamis was ruptures of the southern Hikurangi subduction interface. Identification of these two large earthquakes brings the total record of southern Hikurangi subduction earthquakes to four in the past 2000 yr. For the first time, it is possible to obtain a geologically constrained recurrence interval for the southern Hikurangi subduction zone. We calculate a recurrence interval of 500 yr (335–655 yr, 95% confidence interval) and a coefficient of variation of 0.27 (0.0–0.47, 95% confidence interval). The probability of a large subduction earthquake on the southern Hikurangi subduction zone is 26% within the next 50 yr. We find no consistent temporal relationship between subduction earthquakes and large earthquakes on upper-plate faults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-84
Number of pages10
JournalThe Seismic Record
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2021

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