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Continental Collision Processes

Project Leader: Dr. Phaedra Upton

This objective aims to quantify regional patterns of deformation, surface faulting and erosion processes, and the crustal structure of South Island. The work will improve seismic and landslide hazard assessment, provides baseline data on natural variability for regional planners and climate-change research, and valuable data for the petroleum industry. We will use seismic, GPS, magneto-telluric, and geological data, integrated using finite-element modelling. Outcomes will be achieved by direct communication of results to applied hazards and resources research programs via publications and conference presentations.


  • GPS (T/F): Determining where and how surface deformation has occurred in the South Island over the last decade.
  • MT (Grant Caldwell):Determining whether high electrical conductivity crust beneath the central Southern Alps occur elsewhere beneath the mountains, and if conductivity (aka fluid flow) varies between earthquakes.
  • Alpine Fault Drilling (Rupert Sutherland): participation in the Deep Fault Drilling Project DFDP_proposal.pdf (0 B) :
  • Alpine Fault Fluids (Simon Cox): Better understanding of the role that fluids play in crustal deformation, mineralisation, and earthquake processes.
  • Alpine Fault Modelling (Phaedra Upton): Creating 3D geodynamic models of the South Island collision zone.
  • Alpine Fault Quaternary (Robert Langridge):Collection and integration of data to determine the nature and past motion of the Alpine fault and the near surface effects.

Selected publications

Beavan, R.J.; Denys, P.; Denham, M.; Hager, B.; Herring, T.; Molnar, P. 2010 Distribution of present-day vertical deformation across the Southern Alps, New Zealand, from 10 years of GPS data. Geophysical research letters, 37: L16305, doi:10.1029/2010GL044165

Berryman, K.R., Cochran, U.A., Clark K.J., Biasi G.P., Langridge, R.M., Villamor P. (2012). Major earthquakes occur regularly on an isolated plate boundary fault. Science 336, 1690-1993, doi: 10.1126/science.1218959.

Cox, S.C.; Stirling, M.W.; Herman, F.; Gerstenberger, M.; Ristau, J. 2012. Potentially active faults in the rapidly eroding landscape adjacent to the Alpine Fault, central Southern Alps, New Zealand. Tectonics, 31: TC2011; doi:10.1029/2011TC003038 (24 p.)

Koons, P.O.; Upton, P.; Barker, A.D. 2012 The influence of mechanical properties on the link between tectonic and topographic evolution. Geomorphology, 137(1): 168-180; doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2010.11.012

R. Sutherland, V.G. Toy, J. Townend, S.C. Cox, J.D. Eccles, D.R. Faulkner, D.J. Prior, R.J. Norris, E. Mariani, C. Boulton, B.M. Carpenter, C.D. Menzies, T.A. Little, M. Hasting, G.P. De Pascale, R.M. Langridge, H.R. Scott, Z. Reid Lindroos, B. Fleming, and A.J. Kopf . 2012. Drilling reveals fluid control on architecture and rupture of the Alpine fault, New Zealand Geology, 40 (12), p 1143-1146. doi:10.1130/G33614.1.

Wannamaker, P.E.; Caldwell, T.G.; Jiracek, G.R.; Maris, V.; Hill, G.J.; Ogawa, Y.; Bibby, H.M.; Bennie, S.L.; Heise, W. 2009 Fluid and deformation regime of an advancing subduction system at Marlborough, New Zealand. Nature, 460(7256): 733-737; doi:10.1038/nature08204

Download publications list: Publications - Continental Collision Processes.pdf (21.37 kB)