Stunning visualisations have shown how Marlborough's faults were set off one by one in the 7.8 Kaikoura Earthquake.

The GeoNet network of seismometers and continuously operating GPS instruments have allowed an unprecedented view of the propagation of last Monday's earthquake in real time.

"Computer simulations using GeoNet seismological data allow us to watch the progress of the rupture as it punched its way up the east coast of the South Island over an approximately two minute period early in the morning of November 14," GeoNet stated in a new blog post.

Because Geonet's seismic network had numerous seismic stations situated very close to the rupture - just like its Canterbury Seismic Network during the 2010-2011 earthquake sequence) - the data from these sensors allowed scientists to essentially travel back in time and watch the event unfold.

Computer simulations of the seismological data suggested that the rupture started in the south, on a fault at approximately 15km depth near Culverden.

The initial rupture near Culverden subsequently triggered a domino effect, as the earthquake rupture jumped from fault to fault, essentially "unzipping" along a 150km length of the northeast coast of the South Island.

The data suggested that many faults were involved in the rupture.

The earthquake rupture picked up a head of steam as it passed Kaikoura, with the largest fault movements occurring between Kekerengu and Cape Campbell.

This pattern was confirmed by GPS and satellite radar observations.

Near the end of the earthquake's runaway journey, it jumped onto a series of faults offshore.

Niwa has found clear evidence of large earthquake displacement on one of these - the Needles fault.

The earthquake rupture terminated abruptly just before reaching Cook Strait.

There was no evidence at this time that the Hikurangi subduction zone was significantly involved in the rupture.

The Kaikoura 7.8 earthquake was arguably the most complex earthquake rupture ever to be observed in this level of detail with modern instrumentation, GeoNet stated.

Multiple datasets were rapidly converging to scientists a single, consistent view of exactly what happened in the earthquake.

"Preliminary models, will of course be refined, as new information continues to come in."

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