Dynamic viability of the 2016 Mw 7.8 Kaikōura earthquake cascade on weak crustal faults

Thomas Ulrich, Alice-Agnes Gabriel, Jean-Paul Ampuero, Wenbin Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


We present a dynamic rupture model of the 2016 Mw 7.8 Kaikōura earthquake to unravel the event’s riddles in a physics-based manner and provide insight on the mechanical viability of competing hypotheses proposed to explain them. Our model reproduces key characteristics of the event and constraints puzzling features inferred from high-quality observations including a large gap separating surface rupture traces, the possibility of significant slip on the subduction interface, the non-rupture of the Hope fault, and slow apparent rupture speed. We show that the observed rupture cascade is dynamically consistent with regional stress estimates and a crustal fault network geometry inferred from seismic and geodetic data. We propose that the complex fault system operates at low apparent friction thanks to the combined effects of overpressurized fluids, low dynamic friction and stress concentrations induced by deep fault creep.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 14 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-06-09
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): ORS-2016-CRG5-3027, ORS-2017-CRG6 3389.02
Acknowledgements: The work presented in this paper was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) (projects no. KA 2281/4-1, GA 2465/2-1, GA 2465/3-1), by BaCaTec (project no. A4), by KONWIHR—the Bavarian Competence Network for Technical and Scientific High-Performance Computing (project NewWave), by the Volkswagen Foundation (ASCETE, grant no. 88479), by KAUST-CRG (GAST, grant no. ORS-2016-CRG5-3027 and FRAGEN, grant no. ORS-2017-CRG6 3389.02), by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (ExaHyPE, grant no. 671698 and ChEESE, grant no. 823844), by NSF CAREER award EAR-1151926, by the French government through the UCAJEDI Investments in the Future project ANR-15-IDEX-01 managed by the National Research Agency (ANR), by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University startup grant (1-ZE6R), and by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council Early Career Scheme Fund (F-PP4B). Computing resources were provided by the Institute of Geophysics of LMU Munich69, the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ, projects no. h019z, pr63qo, and pr45fi on SuperMUC). We thank J. Townend for sharing his stress inversion data, J. Zhang and M. Vallée for sharing moment rate functions, C. Holden and E. d’Anastasio who provided processed GPS time-series, GNS Science for providing active fault database, earthquake rupture maps and reports, continuous GPS data, and strong-motion waveform data.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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