Seismology is the scientific study of earthquakes and the seismic waves they produce. The field also includes studies of earthquake environmental effects such as tsunamis as well as diverse seismic sources such as volcanic, tectonic, oceanic, atmospheric, and artificial processes such as explosions.
The movement of seismic waves is detected and recorded by seismographs. The detection involves the separation of events from the ever-present background of seismic noise. Pinpointing sites of events has become very accurate since the development of precise instrumentation and the establishment of the World Wide Standard Seismograph Network (WWSSN). Seismology is very important in the exploration of Earth’s internal structure.
Seismic magnitude scales
Seismic magnitude scales are used to describe the overall strength or “size” of an earthquake. These are distinguished from seismic intensity scales that categorize the intensity or severity of ground shaking (quaking) caused by an earthquake at a given location.
A seismometer is an instrument used to detect seismic waves caused by earthquakes, nuclear explosions, volcanic eruptions, etc., and in prospecting. Seismometers are usually combined with a timing device and a recording device to form a seismograph. The record it produces is called a seismogram. In its simplest form, it contains a horizontal bar, pivoted at one end and with a recording pen at the other. The bar, supported by a spring, bears a heavyweight. As the ground moves, the bar remains roughly stationary owing to the inertia of the weight, while the rest of the equipment moves. The pen traces the vibrations on a moving belt of paper. Most modern seismographs are based on the type developed by John Milne and his colleagues in the 1880s.