Earth’s Interior – Earthquake Waves – Shadow Zone


Most of the knowledge we have about Earth’s deep interior comes from the fact that seismic waves penetrate the Earth and are recorded on the other side.  Earthquake ray paths and arrival times are more complex than illustrated in the animations, because velocity in the Earth does not simply increase with depth. Velocities generally increase downward, according to Snell’s Law, bending rays away from the vertical between layers on their downward journey; velocity generally decreases upward in layers, so that rays bend toward the vertical as they travel out of the Earth . Snell’s Law also dictates that rays bend abruptly inward at the mantle/outer-core boundary (sharp velocity decrease in the liquid) and outward at the outer core/inner core boundary (sharp velocity increase).

Major Points to remember about P S and Love waves

  • P wave or primary wave. This is the fastest kind of seismic wave, and, consequently, the first to ‘arrive’ at a seismic station.
  • The P wave can move through solid rock and fluids, like water or the liquid layers of the earth.
  • P waves are also known as compressional waves.
  • S wave or secondary wave, which is the second wave you feel in an earthquake. An S wave is slower than a P wave and can only move through solid rock, not through any liquid medium.
  • Travelling only through the crust, surface wavesare of a lower frequency than body waves, and are easily distinguished on a seismogram as a result.
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