Ents, orcs and hobbits may have trod upon New Zealand soils, but beneath the Southern Island lies a giant earthquake fault that may help seismologists understand how the Earth moves and bends, according to a Penn State seismologist.
"One of the issues that makes the Alpine fault interesting is that while it is a strike slip fault for most of its length, it begins in a transition from a subduction zone to a strike slip fault," says Dr. Kevin Furlong, professor of geosciences. "Most of the major faults in the world that are strike slip faults – San Andreas, Anatolian in Turkey -- initiate quite differently, but this is different because the subduction is ripping off part of the Australian plate before it joins the Alpine fault."
Subduction occurs when one of the Earths tectonic plates slides beneath another plate. The subduction area or zone is usually the location for earthquakes and volcanic activity. Mt. St. Helens formed in a subduction zone. The Alpine fault does not have volcanic activity. Strike slip faults occur when two tectonic plates slide past each other.
Andrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
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