Volcanoes and Earthquakes

How does a seismograph work?

A seismograph records earthquake waves. When an earthquake occurs, three types of waves are generated. The first two, the P and S waves, are propagated within the earth, while the third, consisting of Love and Rayleigh waves, is propagated along the planet’s surface. The P wave travels about 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) per second and is the first wave to reach the surface. The S wave travels at a velocity of a little more than half of the P waves. If the velocities of the different modes of wave propagation are known, the distance between the earthquake and an observation station may be deduced by measuring the time interval between the arrival of the faster and slower waves.

When the ground shakes, the suspended weight of the seismograph, because of its inertia, scarcely moves, but the shaking motion is transmitted to the marker, which leaves a record on the drum.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Science Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App