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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Fluid flow associated with the Alpine Fault, South Island, New Zealand

Currently Active: 

The Alpine Fault marks the transpressional Pacific-Australian Plate Boundary that runs through South Island, New Zealand. Continental collision at such plate boundaries affects crustal growth, deformation, the formation of mineral resources and natural hazards. The impact of fluid flow in these zones depends upon fluid sources, flow paths, temperatures and extent of fluid-rock interaction.

model modified from Cox and Sutherland (2007)
Block Model of the Southern Alps

This study uses the geochemical analysis of hydrothermal vein minerals, warm springs and surface waters to constrain fluid flow in the Alpine Fault Zone and Southern Alps of New Zealand.

Why study the Alpine Fault?

  1. The Alpine Fault ruptures every 329±68 years the last rupture was ~300 years ago, therefore it is late in its seismic cycle
  2. Rapid uplift and asymmetric erosion has exhumed deeply formed rocks adjacent to the fault exposing a ~25 km crustal section
  3. The orogen is young and presently active therefore seismicity and tectonics are relatively well constrained
  4. Warm springs emanate from the Southern Alps allowing sampling of modern day geothermal fluids
  5. Areas in the Southern Alps are mineralised with gold
Examples of hydrothermal veins and warm springs samples in this study (Source: Miss C Menzies)
Study samples

Scientific aims:

To measure elemental concentrations and isotopic ratios of geothermal fluids and vein minerals from various crustal depths to:

  • Constrain sources of fluids and the depth of penetration of meteoric water in the Alpine Fault Zone
  • Constrain water-rock ratios and temperatures of fluid-rock interactions at different structural depths in the Alpine Fault Zone
  • Constrain fluid flow paths
  • Test for links between shallow and deep level fluid flow systems
Cross section of the Southern Alps showing results of a resistivity study (Wanamaker et al 2002) and possible fluid sources and flow paths
Southern Alps Cross Section


This project was funded until October 2012 by a NERC-CASE PhD studentship (NE/G524160/1) linked with GNS Science, New Zealand, a NERC small grant (NE/H012842/1) to Prof. Damon Teagle, and a NIGFSC grant (IP-1187-0510) for work at the NERC stable isotope lab, SUERC. From December 2012 work on this project will be funded by a NERC grant (NE/H012842/1) to Prof. Damon Teagle.

Key Contacts

Dr Catriona Menzies  (Post Doctoral Researcher)

Prof. Damon Teagle  (Project Supervisor)

Dr . Simon Cox (Project Supervisor)

Prof. Rachael  James (Collaborator)

Dr. Adrian Boyce (Collaborator)

Dr. Samuel Niedermann (Collaborator) 

Dr. Martin Zimmer (Collaborator)

Prof. Dave Craw (Collaborator)

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Related Project Pages

Mountains, Metamorphism and Element Mobility

Deep Fault Drilling: A journey through an active plate boundary

Associated research themes

Hydrothermal Processes and Mineral Deposits

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