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 Introduction to Seismology  posted by  duggu   on 1/23/2008  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Van Der Hilst, Robert, 12.510 Introduction to Seismology, Spring 2010. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare),  (Accessed 09 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Global seismograph network.

A map showing the seismographs in the global seismograph network.  (Image courtesy of USGS.)

Course Highlights

This course features complete lecture notes and homework assignments.

Course Description

This graduate level course presents a basic study in seismology and the utilization of seismic waves for the study of Earth's interior. It introduces techniques necessary for understanding of elastic wave propagation in layered media.

Technical Requirements

File decompression software, such as Winzip® or StuffIt®, is required to open the .zip files found on this course site. The .zip files contain additional files which require software as well. MATLAB® software is required to run the .m files.




Advanced Calculus for Engineers (18.075) or Mathematical Methods for Engineers I (18.085). This is a graduate-level class, but is open to undergraduates.


This course constitutes a broad overview of observational and theoretical seismology and the utilization of seismic waves for the study of the Earth's interior. Topics include elastic wave propagation, seismic ray theory, interpretation of travel times, finite frequency effects, surface wave dispersion, and seismic tomography.


Stein, S., and M. Wysession. An Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure. 1st ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, September 2002. ISBN: 0865420785.


There are 4 homework assignments for this course based on the lecture material. Some require raw data analysis in MATLAB®.


activities percentages
Assignments 50%
Final Exam 40%
Class Participation 10%


Lec # Topics key dates
1 Introductory Lecture  
2 Stress and Strain  
3 Relationship between Stress and Strain

Equation of Motion

Wave Equation
4 Wave Equation (cont.)  
5 d'Alembert's Solution

Separation of Variables

Fourier Transform


Nomenclature of Body Waves in Earth's Interior
6 Eikonal Equation (Basis of Ray Theory)

Boundary Conditions

Snell's Law
Problem set 1 due
7 Snell's Law (cont.)  
8 P-Sv Case

Critical and Post-critical Reflection
9 Critical and Post-critical Reflection (cont.)

Phase Shifts and Pulse Distortion

Layer Over Half Space
10 Seismic Data Inversion  
11 Snell's Law in Spherical Media

Ray Equation

Radius of Curvature

Amplitude → Geometrical Spreading
Problem set 2 due
12 Traveltime Tomography  
13 Traveltime Tomography (cont.)

Model Uniqueness

Fresnel Zones
14 Traveltime Tomography (cont.)

Surface Waves
15 Surface Waves - Ground Roll Problem set 3 due
16 Review of Ground Roll / Love Waves

Evanescent Wave and Sensitivity Kernel

ω - k Space

Phase Velocity vs. Group Velocity
17 Stationary Waves

18 Surface Waves (cont.)


19 Normal Modes (Free Oscillations)  
20 Anisotropy Problem set 4 due two days after lecture 20
21 Earthquakes  
22 Fault Geometry

First Motions

Stereographic Fault Plane Representation

Moment Tensor

Radiation Patterns
23 Earthquake Magnitude

24 Seismometers, Seismic Stations, Seismic Networks   Tell A Friend