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S Waves


Waves can be used to probe the structure of the Earth. Any large mechanical disturbance such as an earthquake or nuclear explosion acts as a source of seismic waves, another term for waves that propagate through the Earth. There are three main types of seismic waves. One is called an S wave (S for Shear). Like shear waves in a metal bar, S waves are transverse in nature with the displacement of the solid Earth perpendicular to the direction of propagation. Another type of seismic wave is called a P wave (P for pressure). P waves are longitudinal sound waves. Although S and P waves have different velocities, they both propagate in to the body of the Earth. A third type of wave travels on the surface. These surface waves travel more slowly than S and P waves and are similar to water waves on the surface of a lake.


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The S waves are the major type of seismic waves that are sent through the Earth. A S wave is sometimes referred to as a "standing wave" because the wave moves perpendicular to the direction of the wave motion. The S waves can only be generated and passed through solid material because this type of seismic waves is related to the closeness or compactness of molecules.


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Some of the characteristics of S waves are listed below:
  • S waves travels with high frequency
  • These waves are transverse in nature,that is perpendicular to the direction of propagation.
  • S waves spreads all directions from the focus
  • It travels with a varying velocities through the solid parts of the Earth crust, mantle are core.
S wave or secondary waves are one of the important waves among the seismic waves. Since S waves arrive after the P waves it is termed as secondary waves. The S waves being slower are received after the P waves by an observational instrument that has detected the waves. In S waves the particles vibrate back and forth at right angles to the direction in which the wave is moving.
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P Waves and S Waves

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The P and S waves are generated some distance beneath the surface at the focus of an earthquake from which they radiate in all directions. P and S waves are generated simultaneously during the earthquake. P wave is a longitudinal wave whereas S wave is a transverse wave. P waves can travel through earth almost twice as fast as S waves, so P waves detected faster in seismograph, an instrument that senses and records earthquakes. Liquids are unable to transmit the side-to-side S waves but do propagate compressional P waves.