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Rayleigh wave

1. n. [Geophysics]

A type of surface wave in which particles move in an elliptical path within the vertical plane containing the direction of wave propagation. At the top of the elliptical path, particles travel opposite to the direction of propagation, and at the bottom of the path they travel in the direction of propagation. Because Rayleigh waves are dispersive, with different wavelengths traveling at different velocities, they are useful in evaluation of velocity variation with depth. Rayleigh waves make up most of the energy recorded as ground roll.

See: ground rollsurface wavewater-bottom roll

Diagram of Rayleigh wave propagation.
Diagram of Rayleigh wave propagation.

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