Actively deforming crust and upper mantle around the obliquely convergent Pacific-Australia plate boundary in the northern South Island of New Zealand have been investigated by seismic tomography using data from a temporary c. 50 station network plus GEONET. The Alpine-Wairau Fault (principal component of the plate boundary at the surface) transects the study area, separating the Buller-Nelson (BN) province of active compressional inversion involving steep reverse faulting to the northwest, from the Marlborough fault system (MA) dominated by dextral strike-slip faulting to the southeast. In the course of this study, MA hosted the 2013 Seddon earthquake sequence (M5.9, 6.6) and the 2016 M7.8 Kaikoura earthquake. Active fault structures and present seismicity are associated with a heterogeneous distribution of low-velocity and Vp/Vs anomalies. Elsewhere, there is a general association between crustal seismicity and low-velocity zones along major fault structures within both the MA and BN seismotectonic provinces along which high Vp/Vs anomalies are locally conspicuous. Areas of active crustal seismicity are also generally characterized by high Vp/Vs, for instance the hypocentre and aftershocks of the 2016 M7.8 Kaikoura earthquake overlie a low-velocity region with high Vp/Vs. The coincidence of anomalously low Vp and Vs and anomalously high Vp/Vs with zones of high electrical conductivity defined by a previous MT transect is consistent with the notion that upward migration of overpressured hydrothermal fluid from the subducting slab at depth leads to a heterogeneous distribution of overpressured fluid in and around the base of the crustal seismogenic zone, weakening the overlying crust and promoting seismic rupture along major fault systems. It seems possible that the Association of mid-crustal low-velocity zones with anomalously high Vp/Vs may diagnose rupture preparation zones where frictional strength is being lowered by the build-up of fluid overpressure concurrent with accumulating shear stress, so that eventual fault failure is ‘dual-driven’.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes