Love Waves Travel on
the Earth's Surface

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.

Love Waves, USGS

L waves moving on the Earth's surface, USGS

Surface waves
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.

Destructive waves
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.

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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%.

More Earthquake Links

The Mercalli Scale Did you know there can be twelve different intensities of an earthquake but only one magnitude? Find out why!

Normal Fault Find out why miners often find valuable ore in sites where normal faults have occurred.

Megathrust Earthquake Find out why megathrust earthquakes will occur off the coasts of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California in the future.

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!

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

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