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Earthquakes on the subduction interface under Wellington

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Wellington sits astride the boundary between two of Earth’s great tectonic plates – the Pacific and Australian plates. The two plates move into and against each other at a rate of about four cm per year, and it is this movement that drives the region’s earthquake engine. The sideways motion of the plates is taken up by lateral slip (large earthquakes) on, for example, the Wellington Fault and the Wairarapa Fault, and the contractional motion is accounted for mainly as slip on the subduction interface between the two plates. The portion of the subduction interface that is currently locked and accumulating significant strain that will be released, presumably, as future earthquakes is highlighted in red. Deeper portions of the subduction interface, where it is hotter and more ductile, are freely sliding and not accumulating strain.

Wellington sits astride the boundary between two of Earth’s great tectonic plates – the Pacific and Australian Plates. The two plates move into and against each other at a rate of about four cm per year, and it is this movement that drives the region’s earthquake engine. The sideways motion of the plates is taken up by lateral slip (large earthquakes) on, for example, the Wellington Fault and the Wairarapa Fault, and the contractional motion is accounted for mainly as slip on the subduction interface between the two plates. The portion of the subduction interface that is currently locked and accumulating significant strain that will presumably be released, as future earthquakes is highlighted in red. Deeper portions of the subduction interface, where it is hotter and more ductile, are freely sliding and not accumulating strain.