Multi-station Seismic Network
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Four-station Seismograph Network
We use a cow and a tree in this narrated cartoon for fun and to emphasize that seismic waves traveling away from an earthquake occur everywhere, not just at seismic stations. A person would feel a large earthquake only at station A near the epicenter. Stations B, C, D, and the cow are too far from the earthquake to feel the seismic waves. Both the scale of the buildings (and cow) and the amplitude of the movements are exaggerated. The cartoonish amplified ground motions show the compressive (up-down in this case) P wave, the shearing (back-forth) S wave, and the rolling surface wave motions recorded by sensitive instruments. Notice that Station D does not record an S wave because shear waves cannot travel through Earth's liquid outer core.
Four-station with No Cartoon Bounce
The above animation showed the buildings and cows bouncing and rolling above the surface of the Earth. This motion is exaggerated. The intent was to illustrate the nature of wave movement, not mimic reality. This second cartoon, not narrated, was designed as a better approximation to reality. It shows the arrival of seismic waves through select wave paths through the Earth (P and S waves) and over the surface of the Earth. The movement at distant stations occurs at a microscopic scale. While that doesn't result in noticeable movements of the buildings, the arrivals are recorded on sensitive seismometers.
What's going on here?
This animation shows the amplified ground motions as the seismic waves arrive at each seismic station, but does not show the paths the waves follow through the Earth. The purpose is to have students observe the ground motions and seismograms and infer where the earthquake occurred using the amplitudes and arrival times of the seismic waves at the four stations. A leading questions might be: "Why does Station D only experience two waves, the up-down motion from the first seismic wave and rolling motion from the last wave and not the back- and-forth ground motion from a second wave like the other stations?"
Video lecture on P, S, and surface waves from a workshop for middle school teachers in Portland, OR.
Animations and videos are made in partnership with Earthscope, USGS, and Volcano Video & Graphics.
Please send feedback to Jenda Johnson.