1. Our Science >
  2. Our Projects >
  3. Slow-Slip Earthquakes and Fluid Flow at the Hikurangi Subduction zone

Slow-Slip Earthquakes and Fluid Flow at the Hikurangi Subduction zone

Project Period: At sea for January and February 2019, collecting data until 2021

Project Funders: U.S National Science Foundation

Organisations: University of Washington, Oregon State University, GNS Science, NIWA, University of Otago, University of Auckland, and Macquarie University

Project Location: East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand

Scientists from the US and New Zealand will be examining the physical conditions along the Hikurangi subduction zone to understand what fluid conditions generate earthquakes. Fluid conditions affect the likelihood and type of earthquakes that occur at faults.

The Hikurangi subduction zone is where the Pacific plate subducts or moves under the Australian plate and is New Zealand’s largest fault. It extends along the length of the East Coast of the North Island.

In one area, the subduction zone is locked meaning no pressure is being released whereas in others pressure is being released via slow slip earthquakes. Slow slip earthquakes are different to normal earthquakes as they occur over days to weeks rather than the seconds it takes for a normal earthquake to occur.

Scientists want to compare each of these areas to uncover what processes might control the locking or slipping along the subduction zone. They will be collecting data over a month long period on board the Rodger Revelle, a US research vessel. 

This scientific voyage will involve:

  1. deploying instruments that will monitor the conditions of the fluid contained between the spaces in sediment, pore sediment over the course of several years 
  2. collecting sediment and pore water samples, 
  3. taking temperature measurements along the seafloor 
  4. using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason

Once the data is collected scientists will begin to analyse and make sense of it before releasing their findings in 2021. 

Related News Items

Revelle Blog #7 Seafloor stakeout

14 Feb 2019

Dr. Claire McKinley is a Research Associate from the University of Washington. She is currently working and reporting on the research occurring along the Hikurangi subduction zone on board the...

Read More
Revelle Blog #6 Seafloor sampling

11 Feb 2019

A critical mission for this research project, is to get samples of sediment deep beneath the seafloor to track deep fluid flow through the Hikurangi subduction zone. Fluid conditions affect the likelihood and type of earthquakes that occur at faults.

Read More
Revelle Blog #5 How do we get pore water?

09 Feb 2019

We collect samples of sediment called cores from the seafloor using a giant straw shaped cookie cutter or by taking small 'hand held' cores using Jason, a high tech robotic submarine.

Read More
Revelle Blog #4 Mapping the ocean

02 Feb 2019

Mapping is the first thing we do at every location. We are mapping the ocean to locate bubbles, because bubbles will lead us to sites on the seafloor that have fluid flow, or seeps. We do this so when we take cores, measure heat flow and deploy instruments we know...

Read More
Revelle Blog #3 What is pore water?

01 Feb 2019

One of the main goals of this voyage is to measure and study pore water to figure out trapped water’s role in allowing slow slip earthquakes to occur. Slow slip earthquakes is when movement between the tectonic plates occurs slowly across the subduction zone, over a period of weeks to...

Read More
Revelle Blog #2 Why come all this way?

22 Jan 2019

We are on the New Zealand subduction zone to study the causes of earthquakes in the region. A subduction zone is where one tectonic plate subducts, or is forced below, another. They are also where the biggest earthquakes and tsunamis occur.

Read More
Revelle Blog #1 To sea we go

18 Jan 2019

We have finally departed Wellington aboard the US research vessel Revelle, on its second of three voyages studying the Hikurangi subduction zone. A subduction zone occurs where one plate dives under, or subducts below, another plate.

Read More
US research ship kicks off summer of science

16 Dec 2018

The US research ship Roger Revelle will be leaving CentrePort today for the first of three scientific voyages from December to February to study the Hikurangi subduction zone.

Read More