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Most Earthquake waves are caused by movements along faults. The waves originate at the fault several kilometers below the Earth’s surface. Primary and secondary waves travel through Earth’s interior while surface waves travel on the surface. Surface waves are the most destructive. Primary waves arrive before secondary and then finally surface waves.
Have you ever heard a big clap of thunder and heard the windows rattle at the same time? The windows rattle because the sound waves were pushing and pulling on the window glass much like P waves push and pull on rock.
Sometimes animals can hear the P waves of an earthquake. Dogs, for instance, commonly begin barking hysterically just before an earthquake 'hits' (or more specifically, before the surface waves arrive). Usually people can only feel the bump and rattle of these waves.
P waves are also known as compressional waves, because of the pushing and pulling they do. Subjected to a P wave, particles move in the same direction that the the wave is moving in, which is the direction that the energy is traveling in
P waves, or primary waves, are compressionalwaves that are longitudinal in nature, or vibrate in the same direction in which they travel. P waves travel faster than the speed of sound and can travel through any material.
S waves, or secondary waves, are shear waves that are transverse in nature, the vibration being perpendicular to the direction of travel, and can travel only through solids.