The sinking city: Earthquakes increase flood hazard in Christchurch, New Zealand
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Airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data were acquired over the coastal city of Christchurch, New Zealand, prior to and throughout the 2010 to 2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. Differencing of pre- and post-earthquake LiDAR data reveals land surface and waterway deformation due to seismic shaking and tectonic displacements above blind faults. Shaking caused floodplain subsidence in excess of 0.5 to 1 m along tidal stretches of the two main urban rivers, greatly enhancing the spatial extent and severity of inundation hazards posed by 100-year floods, storm surges, and sea-level rise. Additional shaking effects included river channel narrowing and shallowing, due primarily to liquefaction, and lateral spreading and sedimen-tation, which further increased flood hazard. Differential tectonic movement and associated narrowing of downstream river chan-nels decreased channel gradients and volumetric capacities and increased upstream flood hazards. Flood mitigation along the large regional Waimakariri River north of Christchurch may have, paradoxically, increased the long-term flood hazard in the city by halting long-term aggradation of the alluvial plain upon which Christchurch is situated. Our findings highlight the potential for moderate magnitude (MW 6–7) earthquakes to cause major topo-graphic changes that influence flood hazard in coastal settings.
Manuscript received 26 May 2014; accepted 31 July 2014.