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Propagation of Seismic Disturbances:

Earthquake Waves

Christhea Mae Caldea BSCE-5
Kine Dela Cruz BSCE-5

What is earthquake wave?

Earthquake waves
- Seismic waves that are created when energy builds up in rocks and they
fracture. Scientists estimate there are several million earthquakes each year. Every
earthquake produces P waves and S waves but only larger earthquakes produce
Love waves and Rayleigh waves. These are the four major types of seismic waves.

Types of seismic waves:

Body Waves - waves that move within the Earths interior or within a body
of rock.

Primary Wave (or P-wave) - When an earthquake hits, the

first thing you feel is the primary wave. The primary wave
moves faster and therefore arrives at a particular location first,
which is why it is called the primary wave. It is a longitudinal
wave, which means that it vibrates the ground parallel to the
direction in which it is moving. You can think of it as shaking the
ground up and down or side to side. Because of this, it tends to
cause the least damage of any of the types of seismic waves.

Secondary Wave (or S Waves )secondary body waves that

shear, or cut the rock they travel through sideways at right
angles to the direction of motion; cannot travel through liquid;
produce vertical and horizontal motion in the ground surface

Surface Wavewaves that move close to or on the outside surface of the


Rayleigh waves also move on the surface but are closer to how
waves in the ocean move. Their movement is circular in motion
as they move through the Earth but the circular motion is
retrograde meaning the waves circle backward as they move

Love waves move like S waves in that they have a shearing

motion in the direction of travel, but the movement is back and
forth horizontally.

Why are seismic waves important?

Some things seismic waves are good for include:

Mapping the Interior of the Earth

Detection of Contaminated Aquifers

Finding Prospective Oil and Natural Gas Locations

Types of Interaction between Waves

1. Refraction
If the seismic wave velocity in the rock below a boundary increases, the
waves will be refracted upward and speed up relative to their original path. If it
passes across a boundary to a lower velocity layer, the wave will be refracted
downward and slow down. Because velocity generally increases with depth in the
mantle, the wave paths get bent until they reach a critical angle at which point, the
waves return to the surface following a curved path upward.
2. Reflection
A seismic reflection is generated when a wave impinges on a change in rock
type (which usually is accompanied by a change in seismic wave speed). Part of the
energy carried by the incident wave is transmitted through the material (thats the
refracted wave described above) and part is reflected back into the medium that
contained the incident wave.

Seismic Wave Speed

Seismic waves travel fast, on the order of kilometers per second (km/s). The
precise speed that a seismic wave travels depends on several factors, most
important is the composition of the rock.
Temperature tends to lower the speed of seismic waves and pressure tends to
increase the speed. Pressure increases with depth in Earth because the weight of
the rocks above gets larger with increasing depth. Usually, the effect of pressure is
the larger and in regions of uniform composition, the velocity generally increases
with depth, despite the fact that the increase of temperature with depth works to
lower the wave velocity

Seismic Wave Speed Equation

The bulk modulus (K) of a substance essentially measures
the substance's resistance to uniform compression.
It is defined as the pressure increase needed to effect a given
relative decrease in volume.
Shear modulus, , sometimes referred to as the modulus of
rigidity, is the ratio of shear stress to the shear strain
= shear modulus
= density
K = modulus of compressibility (bulk modulus)

The P and S wave velocities of various earth materials are shown below.


P wave Velocity (m/s)

S wave Velocity (m/s)

























Sand (Unsaturated)



Sand (Saturated)






Glacial Till (Saturated) 1500-2500


Seismic Velocities

Seismic Phases
Each path produces a separate seismic phase on seismograms. Seismic
phases are described with one or more letters, each of which describes a part of the
wave path. Upper case letters denote travel through a part of the earth (e.g. P or S),
and lower case letters denote reflections from boundaries.


with both P and S-wave legs have been named. A
P denotes a Pwave leg and an S denotes a S-wave leg. PCP denotes a
reflection off the
core-mantle boundary. PP and PPP are free-surface multiple reflections. K is used
for a core traversing wave such as PKP.
Because there is a very large velocity decrease across the core-mantle
boundary, Snells Law predict the waves will refract towards the normal. This
refraction creates a shadow zone for both the P- and S-waves at epicentral
distances >97.

the outer core (c) and goes upward

through the mantle to the station
(second P).
P A primary (compressional)
wave that follows a simple path from
event source to the station.
PcP A P wave that goes
downward through the mantle (the
first P), is reflected from the top of

Pdiff A P wave that has been

bent (diffracted) around the outer core
boundary and arrives at a station in
the ray shadow of the outer core.

S A secondary (shear) wave

that follows a path similar to the P
wave (not shown).

SS A shear wave that has

traveled through the mantle (S),
undergone one reflection from the
underside of Earths surface and
traveled again through the mantle
(second S). Unlike with most other
reflected waves, there is no separate
letter to denote the reflection at the
surface; it is implicit.
PP A compressional wave that
follows paths similar to those of SS
(not shown).