Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Overview of the geologic effects of the November 14, 2016, Mw 7.8 Kaikoura, New Zealand, earthquake

March 30, 2018

The November 14, 2016, Kaikoura, New Zealand, earthquake (moment magnitude [Mw] 7.8) triggered more than 10,000 landslides over an area of about 12,000 square kilometers in the northeastern part of the South Island of New Zealand. In collaboration with GNS Science (the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science Limited), we conducted ground and helicopter reconnaissance of the affected areas and assisted in rapid hazard evaluation. The majority of the triggered landslides were shallow- to moderate-depth (1–10 meters), highly disrupted falls and slides in rock and debris from Lower Cretaceous graywacke sandstone in the Seaward Kaikoura Range. Deeper, more coherent landslides in weak Upper Cretaceous to Neogene sedimentary rock also were numerous in the gentler topography south and inland (west) of the Seaward Kaikoura Range. The principal ground-failure hazards from the earthquake were the hundreds of valley-blocking landslides, many of which impounded lakes and ponds that posed potential downstream flooding hazards. Both large and small landslides also blocked road and rail corridors in many locations, including the main north-south highway (State Highway 1), which was still closed in October 2017. As part of our investigation, we compared post-earthquake field observations to the output of models used to estimate near-real-time landslide probabilities following earthquakes. The models generally over-predicted landslide occurrence and thus need further refinement.