A surface wave is a seismic wave that occurs at or near the surface of Earth. Surface waves tend to have much longer wavelengths and larger amplitudes compared to body waves.
Surface waves travel slowly, but these waves can cause a large amount of damage. According to About.com, surface waves resemble sideways shear waves (Love waves) or water waves (Rayleigh waves).These seismic waves are measured by seismologists using a seismograph or a seismometer. Surface waves are usually created by explosions and earthquakes, and they can travel the globe multiple times if the disturbance is large enough. A surface wave can be mechanical or electromagnetic.