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New Zealand’s next big earthquake is due to strike the Alpine Fault in the next 50 years


New Zealand could soon be hit with a massive magnitude eight earthquake, which would spell disaster for the entire country, researchers have warned.

A team of scientists have predicted that movement within the country’s Alpine Fault, which stretches 850km across the South Island, could lead to a massive earthquake within the next 50 years.

The tectonic plates of the Alpine Fault make large shifts in movement roughly every 250-300 years, which leads to earthquakes, researchers say.

A magnitude eight earthquake was last recorded in 1717 – more than 300 years ago – with scientists expecting the next natural disaster to strike very soon.

Researchers from the Victoria University of Wellington found that the likelihood of an earthquake hitting the Fault before 2068 is 75 per cent – with an 82 per cent chance it will be of a magnitude eight or higher.  

New Zealand could soon be hit with a massive magnitude 8 earthquake which could spell disaster for the entire country, researchers have warned (pictured earthquake that hit Christchurch in September, 2010)

New Zealand could soon be hit with a massive magnitude 8 earthquake which could spell disaster for the entire country, researchers have warned (pictured earthquake that hit Christchurch in September, 2010)

‘Our findings do not change the fact the Alpine Fault has always been and will continue to be hazardous,’ Senior lecturer Jamie Howarth told The Conversation.

‘But now we can say the next earthquake will likely happen in the next 50 years.’

The Alpine Fault runs along the mountains of the South Island and marks the spot where the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates collide.

Over the last 4,000 years the fault has ruptured more than 20 times, Mr Howarth says.  

The team were able to use sediment from the lakes near the Alpine Fault to find evidence of past earthquakes. 

A team of scientists have predicted that the movement within the country's Alpine Fault which stretches 850km across the South Island could lead to a massive earthquake within the next 50 years

A team of scientists have predicted that the movement within the country’s Alpine Fault which stretches 850km across the South Island could lead to a massive earthquake within the next 50 years

Pictured is the Alpine Fault on New Zealand's South Island. Researchers predict an earthquake may hit by 2068

Pictured is the Alpine Fault on New Zealand’s South Island. Researchers predict an earthquake may hit by 2068

Researchers from the Victoria University of Wellington found that the likelihood of an earthquake hitting the Fault before 2068 is 75 per cent - with an 82 per cent chance it will be of a magnitude 8 or higher (pictured earthquake in Christchurch in February, 2011)

Researchers from the Victoria University of Wellington found that the likelihood of an earthquake hitting the Fault before 2068 is 75 per cent – with an 82 per cent chance it will be of a magnitude 8 or higher (pictured earthquake in Christchurch in February, 2011)

Scientists were then able to use these findings as a timeline for when the next major earthquake may occur.

‘The earthquake is inevitable and the science is telling us, in an even more pointed way, it’s going to happen probably sooner than we think,’ Mr Howart told the ABC. 

Caroline Orchiston from Otago University is apart of the group AF8 (Alpine Fault Magnitude 8) which helps communities prepare for the event of an earthquake.

She visited the small town of Whataroa in the Alpine Fault in April when Mr Howarth’s research was first published.

She said for many of the locals the fear of a major earthquake was overwhelming. 

‘Fifty years is nothing in geological time, nothing at all,’ she said.

Police officers walk through debris after a devastating earthquake hit Christchurch in February, 2011

Police officers walk through debris after a devastating earthquake hit Christchurch in February, 2011

A car is seen crushed under debris after Christchurch was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake which killed 185 people

A car is seen crushed under debris after Christchurch was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake which killed 185 people

Local couple Sonia Pettigrew and her husband Peter Dennehy run a farm and accommodation business near the town and fear they’d significantly suffer in the event of a quake.

‘We have one road in and one road out in this part of the west coast, so what’s going to happen if there was a massive earthquake is, the bridges would go and the roads would be damaged. So, we could not get out of town, no way,’ she told the publication.  

Researchers have estimated that within just three minutes the entire South Island would feel the shudder of a magnitude eight earthquake.

One of the country’s worst earthquakes was a 6.3 magnitude in February, 2011 in Christchurch.

The event resulted in 185 deaths and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.

One of the country's worst earthquakes was a 6.3 magnitude in February, 2011 in Christchurch

One of the country’s worst earthquakes was a 6.3 magnitude in February, 2011 in Christchurch



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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