A Caltech Library Service

Rayleigh Waves

Bateman, H. (1938) Rayleigh Waves. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 24 (8). pp. 315-320. ISSN 0027-8424.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


The transmission of plane longitudinal waves of unlimited extent from the ground to the air was investigated by C. G. Knott (1) many years ago. He found that the resulting air waves, which are propagated in almost a vertical direction, generally have only a small amount of energy. Earthquake sounds have been studied by many writers. C. Davison (2) put forward the theory that they originate from the margin of the region disturbed by the earthquake and travel some distance through the earth before being transmitted to the air. A summary of results relating to earthquake noises has been given by Landsberg (3). The type of air motion considered here is not the simple progressive wave in an unlimited atmosphere but is a type of free vibration of the air and ground having the characteristics of a Rayleigh wave except that its velocity of propagation is less than the velocity of sound in air instead of being slightly less than the velocity of a shear wave in the ground. The mathematical analysis is very similar to that used by Stoneley (4) in his study of Rayleigh waves in a plane homogeneous elastic earth below a compressible sheet of water of unlimited extent. It is assumed here, however, that the vertical velocity of the air is negligible at a height H above the ground while in Stoneley's work the boundary condition at the free surface of the water is one of constant pressure. His remarks on nodal planes indicate that his analysis may be applicable in our case but it has been thought worth while to give the analysis again in a form in which the velocity of the wind is taken into consideration and some of Stoneley's approximations are omitted. It is thought that the analysis may be of some interest in connection with the interpretation of the ground roll observed in geophysical field work. For information relating to the ground roll I am indebted to Dr. Gutenberg, Mr. Martin Gould and other members of the group connected with the Pasadena Seismological Laboratory. It has generally been assumed, of course, that the influence of the air on the propagation of seismic waves is slight but such an assumption ought to be justified by numerical work in the base of waves produced by an artificial explosion for there are some features of the phenomena that are not fully elucidated. The problem resembles that of the loud speaker with infinite baffle, the disturbed area of the earth corresponding to the membrane that is set in vibration. Now in the theory of the loud speaker the short circuiting of energy is a familiar phenomenon, there is not simply a radiation of energy outwards. If, then, there is a similar short circuiting of energy in the air after an explosion, an interaction of air and ground is to be expected. If the air and ground are treated as a coupled system, an explosion may be expected to give rise to a subsequent motion that is composed of free vibrations of the system and the particular type of motion to be studied is, indeed, a free vibration. The whole problem is, then, one of the partition of energy among a number of free vibrations including in particular the ordinary Rayleigh wave and the new type of Rayleigh wave. This second type of Rayleigh wave is called "new" merely to distinguish it from the old type but it has been known for a long time that there is more than one type of Rayleigh wave for a stratified medium. With regard to the likelihood of the existence of a marked interaction between the earth and the air it should be mentioned that many years ago the late Lord Rayleigh (5) concluded that in the vicinity of a vibrating body of linear dimensions small in comparison with the wave-length, the air acts as if it were almost incompressible while the great mass of air at some distance from the body is slightly compressed periodically. A similar conclusion has been reached more recently by Lennard Jones (6) after some elaborate calculations. In trying to apply this result to our problem we are led to surmise that when the ground rises initially after an explosion the air immediately above it will either move away laterally and produce a reaction on the ground somewhere else or will try to lift or compress the great body of air above it.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Additional Information:Copyright © 1938 by the National Academy of Sciences. Communicated June 18, 1938. For information relating to the ground roll I am indebted to Dr. Gutenberg, Mr. Martin Gould and other members of the group connected with the Pasadena Seismological Laboratory.
Issue or Number:8
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:BATpnas38b
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11898
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:09 Oct 2008 04:23
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 00:23

Repository Staff Only: item control page