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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Kids Fun Science The links on our home page include information about volcanoes, science activities, plate tectonics, the rock cycle and much more.