Deep-sea observatories to offer new view of seabed earthquakes | 3/8/2018 | Staff
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A mission to study New Zealand's largest fault by lowering two sub-seafloor observatories into the Hikurangi subduction zone is underway this week.

The expedition is led by scientists from The Pennsylvania State University (PennState) and GNS Science in New Zealand, and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP).

Expedition - Information - Tsunamis - Happen - Earthquakes

"This expedition will yield information that's key to understanding why destructive tsunamis happen after shallow earthquakes and after underwater landslides," says James Allan, a program director in NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences, which funds IODP.

This is the second of two related expeditions aboard the scientific drilling ship JOIDES Resolution, and is aimed at studying the Hikurangi subduction zone to find out more about New Zealand's largest earthquake and tsunami hazard.

Hikurangi - Subduction - Zone - Coast - North

The Hikurangi subduction zone, off the east coast of the North Island, is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Pacific tectonic plate dives beneath the Australian plate.

Scientists believe the Hikurangi subduction zone is capable of generating earthquakes greater than magnitude 8. Subduction zone earthquakes can produce major tsunamis because there are large and rapid displacements of the seafloor during these quakes.

Voyage - Science - Team - Cores - Seabed

The voyage's international science team will sample and analyze cores from below the seabed to understand the rock properties and conditions where these events occur.

"We don't yet understand the slow-slip processes that cause faults to behave in this way, and we don't know very much about their relationship to large subduction zone earthquakes," says expedition co-leader Demian Saffer of PennState.

Expedition - Co-leader - Laura - Wallace - GNS

Expedition co-leader Laura Wallace of GNS Science adds, "slow-slip earthquakes are similar to other earthquakes in that they involve more rapid than normal movement along a fault. However, during a slow-slip event, it takes weeks to months for this fault movement to occur. That's very different...
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