FUNDAMENTALS OF PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY
Analysis of properties of matter indirectly provides information about the interior. Weknow through the mining activity that temperature and pressure increase with theincreasing distance from the surface towardsthe interior in deeper depths. Moreover, it isalso known that the density of the material alsoincreases with depth. It is possible to find therate of change of these characteristics. Knowingthe total thickness of the earth, scientists haveestimated the values of temperature, pressureand the density of materials at different depths. The details of these characteristics withreference to each layer of the interior arediscussed later in this chapter. Another source of information are themeteors that at times reach the earth. However,it may be noted that the material that becomesavailable for analysis from meteors, is not fromthe interior of the earth. The material and thestructure observed in the meteors are similar to that of the earth. They are solid bodiesdeveloped out of materials same as, or similar to, our planet. Hence, this becomes yet another source of information about the interior of theearth. The other indirect sources includegravitation, magnetic field, and seismic activity. The gravitation force (
) is not the same at different latitudes on the surface. It is greater near the poles and less at the equator. This is because of the distance from the centre at theequator being greater than that at the poles. The gravity values also differ according to themass of material. The uneven distribution of mass of material within the earth influencesthis value. The reading of the gravity at different places is influenced by many other factors. These readings differ from the expected values.Such a difference is called
.Gravity anomalies give us information about the distribution of mass of the material in thecrust of the earth. Magnetic surveys alsoprovide information about the distribution of magnetic materials in the crustal portion, andthus, provide information about thedistribution of materials in this part. Seismicactivity is one of the most important sources of information about the interior of the earth.Hence, we shall discuss it in some detail.
The study of seismic waves provides a completepicture of the layered interior. An earthquakein simple words is shaking of the earth. It is a natural event. It is caused due to release of energy, which generates waves that travel inall directions.
Why does the earth shake?
The release of energy occurs along a fault. A fault is a sharp break in the crustal rocks.Rocks along a fault tend to move in oppositedirections. As the overlying rock strata pressthem, the friction locks them together. However,their tendency to move apart at some point of time overcomes the friction. As a result, the blocks get deformed and eventually, they slidepast one another abruptly. This causes a release of energy, and the energy waves travelin all directions. The point where the energy isreleased is called the
of an earthquake,alternatively, it is called the
. Theenergy waves travelling in different directionsreach the surface. The point on the surface,nearest to the focus, is called
. It isthe first one to experience the waves. It is a point directly above the focus.
All natural earthquakes take place in thelithosphere. You will learn about different layers of the earth later in this chapter. It issufficient to note here that the lithosphere refersto the portion of depth up to 200 km from thesurface of the earth. An instrument called‘seismograph’ records the waves reaching thesurface. A curve of earthquake waves recordedon the seismograph is given in Figure 3.1. Notethat the curve shows three distinct sectionseach representing different types of wavepatterns. Earthquake waves are basically of twotypes —
. Body waves are generated due to the release of energy at the focus and move in all directions travellingthrough the body of the earth. Hence, the name