Love waves or L waves are surface waves that are very destructive after large earthquakes. Recent research also suggests these waves trigger small earthquakes thousands of miles away from the epicenter hours after a major earthquake.
L waves moving on the Earth's surface, USGS
L waves travel only on the surface of the Earth and are slower than either P waves or S waves. They form when S waves interact with the Earth's surface. These waves produce only horizontal motion on the Earth's surface shaking the Earth in a side to side motion.
These seismic waves are the ones that most people feel during an earthquake. Because the waves take a long time to dissipate they are the most destructive near the epicenter of an earthquake. They often cause buildings to collapse during an earthquake.
Mathematician discovers the waves
L waves were named for A.E.H. Love, a British mathematician, who discovered them in 1911. Scientists have recently been studying the waves after large earthquakes discovered a 37% increase in small earthquakes world wide five hours after a large earthquake.
Small earthquakes triggered by L waves
Scientists believe small earthquakes five hours after a large earthquake are triggered by the L waves. Rayleigh waves, a second type of surface wave, travels slower and when they arrive the number of small earthquakes increased by 60%.
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Earthquake Zones Find out where and why earthquakes occur and why there are earthquake zones.
Moment Magnitude Scale Find out why the moment magnitude scale is used to measure great earthquakes.
Love Waves Find out more about L waves that can topple tall buildings during large earthquakes!
What Causes Earthquakes. Find out what causes earthquakes and other fascinating facts about when our planet shakes, rattles, and rolls.
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