Q:

What causes seismic waves?

A:

Quick Answer

Seismic waves occur from actions within the Earth's core, including breaking and splitting rocks, explosions and volcanic eruptions. Seismic waves occur on land and in the ocean; they exist in two primary forms — surface waves and body waves. Body waves travel underground, below the Earth's surface, while surface waves travel across the surface.

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Full Answer

Actions triggering seismic waves also determine their frequency and strength. Earthquakes, common sources of seismic waves, generate surface and body waves. Large earthquakes produce waves of greater force and length. Some geologists refer to seismic waves as ambient waves, as they derive from low-frequency energy sources. Seismic waves come in the form of primary waves and secondary waves. Secondary waves follow larger primary waves, delivering less force and power.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How do earthquakes transmit energy?

    A:

    An earthquake occurs when the movement and breaking of rock masses happen on pre-existing faults. Once an earthquake hits, energy is created through seismic waves that travel through the Earth's crust.

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  • Q:

    How did we discover the Earth's inner core?

    A:

    Dr. Inge Lehmann discovered the makeup of the Earth's inner core by studying how an earthquake's waves bounced off the core. It was previously thought that the core was made of liquid, surrounded by solid mantle and a crust. Lehmann found that the Earth's center is made of a solid inner core surrounded by a liquid outer core.

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  • Q:

    What kind of wave is released during an earthquake?

    A:

    Seismic waves are released during an earthquake. The three types of seismic waves generated in an earthquake are the primary wave, the secondary wave and the surface wave.

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  • Q:

    What are some of the main characteristics of an earthquake?

    A:

    Earthquakes produce two types of potentially destructive waves that move through the earth from the point of the fault: primary, or pressure waves and secondary, or shear waves. Primary waves, also called P waves, exert a force of compression and travel through rock at speeds that can exceed 225 mph. Secondary waves, also called S waves, exert a shearing force and travel only half as fast as P waves, but are capable of causing much greater damage when they reach the surface.

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