Wave Illustration

Wave Illustration. Part of the Exploring the Earth Using Seismology poster. Seismic Waves

During an earthquake seismic waves radiate outward in all directions. The waves that travel through the interior of the Earth are called body waves, while those that travel along the surface are called surface waves.

There are two main types of body waves: compressional waves (also called P waves) and shear waves (also called S waves). P waves travel by compressing and dilating the material through which they propagate. S waves travel by particles trying to slide past each other similar to when one shakes a rope up and down or from side to side. P waves can travel through solid and fluid materials, S waves can only travel through solids. P waves travel faster than S waves.

Surface waves are confined to the surface of the Earth. In one kind of surface wave (called Rayleigh wave), the particle motion is elliptical. In another kind of surface wave (called Love wave), the particle motion is sideways. Surface waves travel slower than P waves and S waves.


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