Six months of seismic activity in under a minute

By Chris McDowall 08/09/2010

I created a video to animate six months of 2010 New Zealand seismic activity data picked up by the GeoNet sensors. The animation begins in April and ends a few days after the 7.1 quake that hit Christchurch on September 4. Keep in mind three things when you view the video.

  • Blue circles represent seismic activity recordings.
  • Each event leaves behind a small, pale red dot to show the overall pattern.
  • Most events are either small, deep or both.

Note how sparse the pattern of spots across Canterbury is until early September.

[vimeo width=”690″ height=”707″][/vimeo]

The data comes from the excellent folks at the New Zealand Geonet project. You can download the data as a spreadsheet from

I created the individual animation frames using Python and matplotlib. I stitched the images together with FFmpeg. I acknowledge the New Zealand GeoNet project and its sponsors EQC, GNS Science and LINZ for providing the data.

0 Responses to “Six months of seismic activity in under a minute”

  • Most excellent. It is interesting how many earthquakes occur all the time in the Wairarapa, Bay of Plenty and Fiordland. If each earthquake is considered to be the earth moving a little bit, then the relative paucity of quakes between all the shifting in Fiordland and in the lower North Island, could imply that pressure is building on the Alpine fault.

  • Chris,
    That’s a brilliant job. Thank you.
    It is possible to do the same thing of just the Christchurch area, and have you noticed any trend in the after-shocks?
    I know I’m hoping for the impossible, but trying to get some idea of where after-shocks might be next.
    Steve (in Christchurch, hence vested interest)

  • This is really cool. One thing I couldn’t help but notice is that the earth quakes seem to move like a river up the country suggesting very much that they are related and seem to cause this cascading effect, maybe its my imagination.

  • Truly the Shaky Isles- my Dad drove an ambulance during the 1931 Napier earthquake. Having much later experienced, in the same city, minor jolts- they are terrifying experiences.
    Does anyone know why Wellington- long expected to get the really BIG Quake, has not so far- and Christchurch did?