By Matthys Levy
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Additional resources for Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis: Projects and Principles for Beginning Geologists
In fact, if you were in a boat, you might never even notice the passing wave, because it would very slowly and gently lift and lower th e boa t. Tha t is be cause, unlik e th e sh ort wa ves a t th e beach—where y ou can see man y crests approaching—a tsunami wave is very long and you cannot even see from one crest to another. 33 4 Earthquake Messages he force of an earthquake comes from seismic waves that move through the earth (seismic comes from the Greek seismos, meaning “earthquake”). The waves originate at the point below the surface of the earth where the tectonic plates move or slip; this point is called the earthquake’s focus.
I just read that S waves cannot travel through a liquid, yet S waves travel through the mantle. How does this happen? The soupy rock of the mantle is under tremendo us pressure from the weight of the crust above it and, as a result, its melt ing temperature is much g reater than it wo uld be on th e surface of the earth, just as the temperature of steam in a kitchen pressure cooker is much greater than it would be in the open air. Because it is under such high pressure, and thus has a high melt ing temperature, the mantle therefore feels like a solid to S waves.
But the opinions of witnesses are very personal and, hence, can be widely different. To be thrown out of bed by an earthquake may be a terrible experience for an American to wh om this has happ ened for the fi st t ime, but it ma y be nothing extraordinary to a Japanese person who has had a number of such e xperiences. A better wa y of estimating an e arthquake’s strength had to be found. And this is wha t th e Amer ican seismo logist Charl es Richter did in 1935 b y proposing to est imate the strength of earthquakes by scientifical y me asuring both the motions of the e arth’s cr ust during an earthquake and the energy of the earthquake shock.