On December 3, 2014, NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over New Zealand as the clouds parted, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board to capture this true-color image of South Island.With an area of 151,215 square km (58,093 sq mi), South Island is the largest of the two main islands of New Zealand and the twelfth largest island in the world. The largest city, Christchurch, lies just north of the Banks Peninsula, the hook-like projection on the east coast.
Nicknamed the “Garden City” because of tree-lined streets and extremely beautiful gardens, Christchurch was severely damaged by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, 2011. The center was close to the surface, with extremely high ground acceleration that raised the earth up at about 20 meters (65 feet) per second, before dropping it back down. At least 185 people died in that earthquake, and the city continues to rebuild.
Lesser magnitude earthquakes continue to be common in Christchurch, with four quakes reported on the date this image was captured, each between 2.33 and 2.87 magnitude. Such earthquakes cause little or no damage, but are reminders of the potential power of "the big one".
Several major fault lines run the length of New Zealand, many of which are oblique strike slip faults, which move with a combination of vertical and sideways shifting. In South Island a series of relatively minor fault lines runs across the country. Movement along such minor lines caused the Christchurch earthquake of 2011, and continues to cause frequent earthquakes in the region. The most major fault line in South Island is the Alpine Fault, which has given rise to steep and snow-covered Southern Alps range. This feature is easily seen from space lying in the western section of the island.