Running up 600km on the spine of Aotearoa’s South Island, the Alpine Fault is one of the world’s major geological features.
The Alpine Fault has a high probability of rupturing in the next 50 years.
The rupture will produce one of the biggest earthquakes since European settlement of New Zealand, and it will have a major impact on the lives of many people. In between earthquakes, the Alpine Fault is locked. All these things mean that the Alpine Fault is a globally significant geological structure.
According to GNS, Horizontal movement of the Alpine Fault is about 30m per 1000 years, which is considered very fast by global standards. Each time it has ruptured, it has also moved vertically, lifting the Southern Alps in the process. In the last 12 million years the Southern Alps have been uplifted by an amazing 20 kilometres, and it is only the fast pace of erosion that has kept their highest point below 4000 metres. The glaciers and rivers have removed the rest of the material and spread it out across the lowland plains or onto the sea floor. The rapid uplift also means that faulted rock from deep down has been brought to the surface, and can be studied by scientists.