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Monitoring and Detecting Geohazards

New Zealand is geologically active and therefore at risk from geohazards. By monitoring, modelling and finding geohazards people can be ready for them. In New Zealand the GeoNet project (funded by EQC) does the monitoring.

Understanding and monitoring seismic activity

GNS Science looks after the GeoNet project and is monitoring our earthquakes, large and small, and our active fault lines to understand past events, and prepare for the future.

To better understand earthquakes scientists work on; 

  • finding faults and measuring movement
  • finding out where earthquakes begin
  • finding out how often earthquakes happen on certain faults
  • looking after a national network of seismographs
  • looking at how buildings cope with earthquakes
  • use GPS equipment to pinpoint where stress is building up or being released in the Earth’s crust
  • model earthquake effects on communities
  • develop designs to improve the safety and strength of buildings and services

Monitoring active volcanoes

There are 12 active volcanic areas in New Zealand. Although the probability of an eruption affecting a large area is low in any one year, New Zealand needs to be prepared for different kinds of volcanic eruptions.

The GeoNet project (GNS Science) monitors active volcanoes to find the early signs of volcanic activity. This equipment is also used to study the impacts of eruptions and model future eruptions.

Tsunami detection and modelling

To better understand tsunami and the risk for New Zealand, scientists work on;

  • finding tsunami sources and modelling waves
  • studying offshore faults and earthquakes that may cause local tsunami
  • finding tsunami that have happened in the past and looking at their impact
  • working with scientists from other countries to share information and research
  • monitoring earthquakes that could cause tsunami
  • tide gauges are used to record the arrival and height of tsunami waves
  • modelling local tsunami produced by earthquakes, undersea landslides and volcanoes
  • teaching the public so people know what to do if there is a tsunami

Monitoring and modelling landslides

Unstable land, heavy rainfall, earthquakes and people changing the land can lead to landslides. Studying the strength of the ground, landslide events and triggers and locating faults can help us to understand landslides better.

GNS Science looks after the GeoNet project which monitors earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and tsunami. This is a seismometer to measure ground movement; how do you think it works? Image: LEARNZ.


Devices such as this make up the Eruption Detection System on Mount Ruapehu. Why is a warning system so important on Mount Ruapehu? Image: LEARNZ.


A tsunami gauge recording showing the tsunami at Raoul Island after the 2011 7.6 magnitude earthquake in the Kermadec Islands. Image: GeoNet.

Visit the GeoNet website to learn more about monitoring geohazards.