When friend look in ~ a seismogram the wiggles friend see room an indication the the floor is being, or was, vibrated by seismic waves. Seismic waves space propagating vibrations that bring energy indigenous the source of the shaking outside in every directions. You can picture this principle by recalling the circular tide that spread out over the surface of a pond once a rock is thrown right into the water. An earthquake is a more facility process than a stone splashing right into water, and the seismic waves the are collection up during an earthquake are much more varied 보다 those top top the pond.

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The are numerous different seismic waves, but all of basically of 4 types:

Compressional or p (for primary)Transverse or S (for secondary)LoveRayleigh

An earthquake radiates P and also S tide in all directions and also the interaction of the P and also S waves v Earth"s surface and also shallow framework produces surface waves.


Near an earthquake the shaking is huge and overcame by shear-waves and also short-period surface waves. These are the tide that carry out the most damage to ours buildings, highways, etc. Also in huge earthquakes the extreme shaking typically lasts only a few tens the seconds, yet it deserve to last because that minutes in the greatest earthquakes. In ~ farther distances the amplitude of the seismic waves decreases as the power released through the earthquake diffusion throughout a larger volume that Earth. Also with increasing distance from the earthquake, the waves are separated personal in time and dispersed due to the fact that P, S, and also surface waves travel at various speeds.

Seismic waves can be distinguished by a variety of properties consisting of the speed the waves travel, the direction that the waves relocate particles as they happen by, where and where they don"t propagate. We"ll go through each wave form individually to expound top top the differences.

The an initial two wave types, P and S , are referred to as body waves because they travel or propagate with the human body of Earth. The latter two are dubbed surface waves lock the take trip along Earth"s surface and their amplitude decreases v depth right into Earth.


Wave travel Times

Travel time are best conceptualized of with an analogy of an auto trip. If you need to travel 120 miles and also you journey 60 mph, you"ll acquire to your location in two hours, if you are forced to journey at a rate of 30 mph, it will take you twice as lengthy to come at her destination. The math formula we use in this trouble is

driving time = (distance of trip) / (driving speed)

To apply those ideas to earthquake studies, think that the earthquake ar as the beginning point because that the trip and also the seismometer as the ar where the trip concludes. Faster waves will take trip the street quicker and show up on the seismogram first.

travel time = (distance indigenous earthquake to seismometer) / (seismic tide speed)

Travel time is a relative time, that is the number of minutes, seconds, etc. That the tide took to complete its journey. The arrival time is the time when we document the come of a wave - it is an pure time, generally referenced to universal Coordinated Time (a 24-hour time device used in numerous sciences). Here"s an instance to highlight the difference: if two earthquakes emerged at the exact same place however exactly 24 hrs apart, the wave travel times would certainly be the same but the arrival times would certainly differ by one day.

Seismic wave Speed

Seismic waves take trip fast, ~ above the stimulate of kilometers per 2nd (km/s). The precise speed the a seismic wave travels depends on number of factors, most essential is the composition of the rock. We space fortunate that the speed depends on the rock kind because it enables us come use observations recorded ~ above seismograms come infer the composition or selection of compositions that the planet. However the process isn"t constantly simple, since sometimes different rock species have the very same seismic-wave velocity, and other determinants also affect the speed, particularly temperature and also pressure. Temperature tends to lower the speed of seismic waves and also pressure often tends to increase the speed. Pressure boosts with depth in Earth because the load of the rocks over gets larger with increasing depth. Usually, the impact of pressure is the larger and in regions of uniform composition, the velocity usually increases v depth, in spite of the reality that the boost of temperature v depth works to reduced the wave velocity.

When I explain the various seismic wave types below I"ll quote arrays of rate to indicate the variety of values we observe in typical terrestrial rocks. But you must keep in mind that the specific speed throughout earth will count on composition, temperature, and also pressure.

Compressional or P-Waves

P-waves are the first waves to come on a complete record of floor shaking due to the fact that they take trip the faster (their name derives indigenous this reality - ns is an abbreviation because that primary, very first wave to arrive). They commonly travel in ~ speeds between ~1 and also ~14 km/sec. The slower values coincides to a P-wave travel in water, the higher number represents the P-wave speed near the basic of Earth"s mantle.

The velocity of a wave depends on the elastic properties and also density of a material. If us let k stand for the mass modulus that a material, m the shear-modulus, and r the density, climate the P-wave velocity, i beg your pardon we stand for by a, is characterized by:


A modulus is a measure of just how easy or an obstacle it is come deforms a material. For example, the bulk modulus is a measure of how a material alters volume when pressure is applied and is a characteristic of a material. Because that example, foam rubber has a lower mass modulus 보다 steel.

P-waves room sound waves, it"s just that in seismology we room interested in frequencies that are lower than humans" variety of listening (the speed of sound in waiting is about 0.3 km/sec). The vibration caused by ns waves is a volume change, alternate from compression to expansion in the direction that the wave is traveling. P-waves travel with all species of media - solid, liquid, or gas.


As a P-wave overcome the soil is vibrated in the direction the the tide is propagating.


Secondary , or S waves, take trip slower 보다 P waves and also are additionally called "shear" waves since they don"t readjust the volume the the product through which lock propagate, they shear it. S-waves room transverse waves because they vibrate the soil in a the direction "transverse", or perpendicular, to the direction that the wave is traveling.


As a transverse wave passes the soil perpendicular to the direction the the tide is propagating. S-waves are transverse waves.

The S-wave speed, contact it b, counts on the shear modulus and also the density


Even despite they are slower than P-waves, the S-waves relocate quickly. Common S-wave propagation speeds are on the stimulate of 1 to 8 km/sec. The lower value coincides to the wave rate in loose, unconsolidated sediment, the greater value is close to the basic of Earth"s mantle.

An important distinguishing characteristic of one S-wave is its i can not qualify to propagate v a fluid or a gas due to the fact that a fluids and also gasses cannot transmit a shear stress and also S-waves room waves the shear the material.

In general, earthquakes generate larger shear waves than compressional waves and also much the the damage close to an earthquake is the result of strong shaking caused by shear waves.

Using P and S-waves To find Earthquakes

We can use the fact that P and S waves take trip at various speeds to find earthquakes. Assume a seismometer room is far sufficient from the earthquake the the tide travel around horizontally, which is around 50 to 500 kilometres for shallow earthquakes. Once an earthquake wake up the P and also S tide travel outward from the an ar of the fault that ruptured and the ns waves come at the seismometer first, complied with by the S-wave. Once the S-wave arrives we can measure the time interval in between the beginning of P-wave and the start of S-wave shaking.

The take trip time of the P wave is

distance native earthquake / (P-wave speed)

The travel time of the S tide is

distance native earthquake / (S-wave speed)

The difference in the arrival times of the tide is

distance indigenous earthquake / (S-wave speed) - street from earthquake / (P-wave speed)

which equals

distance indigenous earthquake * ( 1/ (S-wave speed) - 1 / (P-wave speed) )

We can measure that distinction from a seismogram and also if we also know the rate that the tide travel, we could calculate the street by equating the measured time difference and the expression. For the distance selection 50 to 500 km, the S-waves travel around 3.45 km/s and also the P-waves about 8 km/s. The value in bracket is then same to about (1/3.45 - 1/8) or about 1/8. Thus the straightforward rule of ignorance for earthquakes in this distance variety is the street is about eight times the come time of S-wave much less the come time that the P-wave.

That method that we can estimate the street an earthquake is native a seismometer. The earthquake have the right to be in any kind of direction, yet must be the estimated distance away. Geometrically that way that the earthquake should be located on a circle surrounding the seismometer, and also the radius that the circle is around eight times the observed wave travel-time distinction (in kilometers).

If we have two other seismometers which videotaped the very same earthquake, we can make a similar measurement and construct a one of possible locations because that each seismometer. Due to the fact that the earthquake location due to the fact that it need to lie on every circle focused on a seismometer, if we plot 3 or much more circles ~ above a map we can find the the three circles will intersect in ~ a single location - the earthquake"s epicenter.


Using the "S minus ns arrival time" to situate an earthquake. You need at the very least three stations and also some idea of the P and S velocities in between the earthquake and also the seismometers.

In practice we use much better estimates of the speed than our basic rule the thumb and also solve the difficulty using algebra instead of geometry. We likewise can include the earthquake depth and the time the earthquake rupture initiated (called the "origin time") into the problem.

Love Waves

Love waves room transverse waves that vibrate the floor in the horizontal direction perpendicular to the direction that the waves room traveling. They are developed by the communication of S waves v Earth"s surface and shallow structure and also are dispersive waves. The rate at i m sorry a dispersive tide travels counts on the wave"s period. In general, earthquakes generate Love waves end a selection of periods from 1000 come a fraction of a second, and also each period travels at a various velocity yet the typical variety of velocities is between 2 and also 6 km/second.


Love waves are transverse and limited to horizontal activity - they are recorded just on seismometers that measure the horizontal ground motion.

Another important characteristic of Love tide is the the amplitude of soil vibration resulted in by a Love tide decreases with depth - they"re surface ar waves. Prefer the velocity the rate of amplitude decrease with depth likewise depends top top the period.

Rayleigh Waves

Rayleigh waves room the slowest of every the seismic wave species and in some means the most complicated. Choose Love waves they are dispersive for this reason the details speed in ~ which lock travel counts on the wave period and the near-surface geologic structure, and they additionally decrease in amplitude v depth. Usual speeds for Rayleigh waves are on the order of 1 come 5 km/s.


Rayleigh waves are similar to water waves in the s (before lock "break" at the surf line). Together a Rayleigh wave passes, a particle moves in an elliptical trajectory that is counterclockwise (if the tide is traveling to your right). The amplitude the Rayleigh-wave shaking decreases v depth.

Seismic tide Propagation

Waves top top a Seismogram

As you can expect, the distinction in tide speed has a profound affect on the nature the seismograms. Since the travel time that a wave is equal to the street the wave has traveled, divided by the average speed the wave moved throughout the transit, we expect that the fastest tide arrive at a seismometer first. Thus, if we look in ~ a seismogram, we expect to see the very first wave to come to be a P-wave (the fastest), climate the S-wave, and also finally, the Love and also Rayleigh (the slowest) waves. Although we have actually neglected distinctions in the travel route (which exchange mail to differences in travel distance) and also the variety waves the reverberate within Earth, the as whole character is as we have described.

The fact that the waves take trip at speed which rely on the product properties (elastic moduli and density) allows us to use seismic wave monitorings to inspection the internal structure the the planet. We can look in ~ the take trip times, or the travel times and also the amplitudes of waves to infer the existence of features within the planet, and also this is a active area of seismological research. To understand just how we "see" into planet using vibrations, we have to study just how waves communicate with the rocks that consist of Earth.

Several varieties of interaction in between waves and the subsurface geology (i.e. The rocks) are commonly observable top top seismograms


We"ll study the two simplest species of communication refraction and also reflection.


As a wave travels through Earth, the course it takes depends on the velocity. Possibly you recall indigenous high college a principle called Snell"s law, i m sorry is the mathematical expression that permits us to identify the course a wave takes as it is transmitted native one rock layer into another. The adjust in direction counts on the proportion of the tide velocities of the two various rocks.


When waves reach a boundary between different rock types, component of the energy is sent across the boundary. The transmitted tide travels in a various direction which counts on the proportion of velocities the the two rock types. Component of the energy is also reflected backwards into the an ar with Rock type 1, however I haven"t presented that on this diagram.

Refraction has an essential affect ~ above waves the travel with Earth. In general, the seismic velocity in planet increases v depth (there are some important exceptions come this trend) and also refraction the waves reasons the path complied with by body waves come curve upward.


The as whole increase in seismic wave rate with depth into earth produces an increase curvature to rays the pass through the mantle. A notable exemption is resulted in by the decrease in velocity indigenous the mantle to the core. This speed decrease bends tide backwards and also creates a "P-wave shadow Zone" between around 100° and also 140° street (1° = 111.19 km).


The 2nd wave interaction with variations in rock type is reflection. I am sure that you are familiar with reflected sound waves; we contact them echoes. And also your reflection in a winter or pool of water is composed of reflected light waves. In seismology, reflect are used to prospect for petroleum and also investigate Earth"s interior structure. In some instances reflect from the boundary in between the mantle and also crust might induce solid shaking that causes damage around 100 km from an earthquake (we contact that border the "Moho" in honor of Mohorovicic, the scientist who discovered it).

A seismic have fun occurs once a tide impinges on a adjust in rock form (which usually is accompanied by a change in seismic wave speed). Component of the energy lugged by the incident wave istransfer through the material (that"s the refracted wave explained above) and component is reflected back into the medium that consisted of the event wave.


When a tide encounters a change in product properties (seismic velocities and or density) its power is separation into reflected and refracted waves.

The amplitude the the reflection counts strongly ~ above the angle that the incidence wave renders with the boundary and the comparison in material properties across the boundary. For part angles every the energy can be returned right into the medium containing the event wave.

The really interaction in between a seismic wave and also a comparison in absent properties is more complex because an event P tide generates sent and also reflected P- and also S-waves and also so 5 waves room involved. Likewise, once an S-wave interacts v a boundary in rock properties, it too generates reflected and also refracted P- and also S-waves.


I mentioned above that surface ar waves are dispersive - which way that various periods take trip at different velocities. The effects of dispersion become more noticeable with boosting distance because the longer travel distance spreads the power out (it disperses the energy). Usually, the long periods arrive first since they are sensitive come the speeds deeper in Earth, and also the deeper areas are usually faster.


A distributed Rayleigh wave produced by one earthquake in Alabama close to the Gulf coast, and also recorded in Missouri.

P-Waves in Earth

The math behind wave propagation is elegant and fairly simple, considering the truth that comparable mathematical tools are helpful for researching light, sound, and also seismic waves. We have the right to solve this equations or an appropriate approximation to them to compute the paths that seismic tide follow in Earth. The diagram below is an instance of the courses P-waves generated by one earthquake close to Earth"s surface ar would follow.

The paths of P-wave power for a shallow earthquake situated at the top of the diagram. The key chemical shells of planet are shown by different colors and regions with fairly abrupt velocity changes are shown by dashed lines. The curves show the routes of waves, and the lines cross the rays present mark the wavefront in ~ one minute intervals.

Note the curvature of the beam in the mantle, the complexities in the upper mantle, and the dramatic influence of the core on the wavefronts. The decrease in velocity from the lower mantle come the outer core casts a "shadow" on the P-waves that extends from around 100° to 140° distance. Various other waves such as surface ar waves and also body waves mirroring off the surface are recorded in the "shadow" region, but the P-wave "dies out" close to 100°. Because the external core is fluid, and S-waves cannot travel with a fluid, the "S-wave zero zone" is even larger, prolonging from around 100° to 180°.

Earth"s internal Structure

We have already discussed the main elements in Earth"s interior, the core, the mantle, and the crust. By researching the propagation features (travel times, reflection amplitudes, dispersion characteristics, etc.) the seismic waves for the last 90 years we have actually learned much about the thorough nature the Earth"s interior. An excellent progress to be made quickly since for the most part Earth"s interior is fairly simple, split into a round (the within core) surrounded by roughly uniform shells the iron and rock. Models that assume the planet is perfectly symmetric can be supplied to predict travel times of P-waves the are accurate to a few seconds because that a pilgrimage all the way across the planet.

The diagram listed below is a plot the the P- and S-wave velocities and also the thickness as a function of depth right into Earth. The peak of the planet is situated at 0 kilometres depth, the center of the world is at 6371 km.

Velocity and density variations within Earth based on seismic observations. The main regions the Earth and important limits are labeled. This design was developed in the beforehand 1980"s and also is dubbed PREM for Preliminary earth Reference Model.

Several important characteristics of Earth"s structure are shown in the chart. First note the in several big regions such together in the lower mantle, the external core, and inner core, the velocity smoothly rises with depth. The increase is a an outcome of the impacts of push on the seismic tide speed. Back temperature additionally increases with depth, the pressure increase resulting from the weight of the rocks over has a greater impact and the speed rises smoothly in these regions of uniform composition.

The shallow component of the mantle is different; it has several important well-established and fairly abrupt velocity changes. In fact, we often divide the mantle right into two regions, upper and also lower, based upon the level that velocity heterogeneity. The an ar from close to 400 to 1000 km depth is dubbed the transition zone and also strongly affects human body waves that "turn" in ~ this depth and also arrive around 20°-30° far-off from a shallow earthquake. In this depth variety the minerals that make up the mantle silicate rocks are transformed by the increasing pressure. The atoms in these rocks rearrange themselves into compact frameworks that space stable in ~ the high pressures and also the an outcome of the rearrangement is boost in density and elastic moduli, developing an all at once increase in wave speed.

Graphite in "lead" pencils and diamonds room a more common instance of atoms rearranging us under different problems - they room both created of carbon. The various arrangement and also bonding that the carbon atom in the two products produces dramatically various properties. Diamonds are developed under huge pressures; all herbal diamonds developed at depth of about 150-200 km, and were brought to the surface ar by volcano activity. At the high pressure the carbon atoms room squeezed right into a tight arrangement that renders them one of the hardest materials. In contrast, the low-pressure setup of carbon in graphite create the slippery, soft character of "lead" that we use for pencils.

The two largest contrasts in product properties in the planet system are situated near the surface and also the core-mantle boundary. Both are compositional boundaries and also the core-mantle boundary is the larger contrast. Other sharp contrasts are observable, the inner-core outer-core border is relatively sharp, and also velocities rise from the liquid to the solid.

Models of Earth"s Heterogeneity

The PREM design is a advantageous reference for understanding the main features of Earth. An ext recent efforts have concentrated on estimating the lateral sports in wave speed within the shells that comprise the referral model. These approaches are often based upon seismic tomography, which is a means of mapping out the sport in structure using monitorings from big numbers the seismograms. The an easy idea is to usage observed delayed (or early) arrival times (delayed through respect come the reference model) to find regions of reasonably fast and fairly slow seismic tide speed.

The idea is depicted in the cartoon come the left. Waves are stood for by arrows and also are travel from left to right. Those that travel through the slow region are slowed down, and hence will certainly be recorded after that the a seismogram.

The same principles are supplied in clinical CAT scan imaging of human being bodies, however the observed quantity in a CAT scan is no a travel time, but the lot of x-ray absorption. Ultrasound imaging is similar to P-wave tomography, it"s simply that in seismology we don"t have actually the selection of where are wave resources are located - we just make use of earthquakes.

In the two years tomography has been used to earth studies on numerous scales, indigenous looking at small regions the Earth"s tardy that may contain petroleum, to imaging the entire planet. On a an international scale, we can expect that the shallow components of the mantle would certainly correlate through the major structural features we can observe in ~ the surface ar - the bowl boundaries.

In regions where product is increasing from the mantle, it should be warmer, and also the velocity must be lower, in regions that are old and also cold, such together beneath countless of the old parts of continents, us would suppose to see much faster regions (assuming that temperature is the just difference). The yes, really variations are affected by both temperature and composition variations, yet they agree well with the ideas of plate tectonics, an especially at the divergent limits or oceanic spreading ridges.

Map of the sport in seismic shear-wave speed with respect come the worth in PREM in ~ 100 km depth. The warm colors (red, orange, and also yellow) present regions v slower than regular speeds, the darker regions are quicker than normal. Note the correlation through plate boundaries and also surface warmth flow. (Model S12 WM13, indigenous W.-J. Su, R. L. Woodward and A. M. Dziewonski, Degree-12 model of Shear Velocity Heterogeneity in the Mantle, journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 99(4) 4945-4980, 1994).

The velocities depth in the planet have likewise be imaged. The next map reflects the variations at 2,880 kilometres depth , in the mantle just above the core-mantle boundary. The shade scale is the same however note exactly how the lower-mantle velocity variations are much more subdued than those in the much more heterogeneous top mantle. Also, note that the correlation with surface ar tectonics is gone, together you would mean for a complex convective mechanism such together Earth"s mantle.

Map that the variations in seismic shear-wave speed with respect come the value in PREM at 2,880 km depth, just above the main point mantle boundary. The warmth colors (red, orange, and yellow) present regions through slower than common speeds, the darker areas are faster than normal. Note the correlation through plate boundaries and surface heat flow. (Model S12 WM13, indigenous W.-J. Su, R. L. Woodward and also A. M. Dziewonski, Degree-12 version of Shear Velocity Heterogeneity in the Mantle, newspaper of Geophysical Research, vol. 99(4) 4945-4980, 1994).

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These variations are actually fairly small, top top the stimulate of a couple of percent, so the an easy idea of planet being a spherically stratified earth are well founded. In the crust, the variations are larger and can reach 10s of percent. The crust is the material extracted native the mantle end the last 4.5 exchange rate years and it contains a an excellent diversity of structures that space often apparent when you study the rocks exposed at the surface.

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