Earthquake triggers 'slow motion' quakes in New Zealand

Slow slip events, a type of slow motion earthquake that occurs over days to weeks, are thought to be capable of triggering larger, potentially damaging earthquakes. In a new study led by The University of Texas at Austin, scientists have documented the first clear-cut instance of the reverse -- a massive earthquake immediately triggering a series of large slow slip events.

Some of the slow slip events occurred as far away as 300 miles from the earthquake's epicenter. The study of new linkages between the two types of seismic activity, published in Nature Geoscience on Sept. 11, may help promote better understanding of earthquake hazard posed by subduction zones, a type of fault responsible for some of the world's most powerful earthquakes.

"This is probably the clearest example worldwide of long-distance, large-scale slow slip triggering," said lead author Laura Wallace, a research scientist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG). She also holds a joint position at GNS Science, a New Zealand research organization that studies natural hazards and resources.

Co-authors include other GNS scientists, as well as scientists from Georgia Tech and the University of Missouri. UTIG is a research unit of the UT Jackson School of Geosciences.

In November 2016, the second largest quake ever recorded in New Zealand -- the 7.8 magnitude Kaik?ura quake -- hit the country's South Island. A GPS network operated by GeoNet, a partnership between GNS Science and the New Zealand Earthquake Commission, detected slow slip events hundreds of miles away beneath the North Island. The events occurred along the shallow part of the Hikurangi subduction zone that runs along and across New Zealand.

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