In the midwest, we have crazy weather. We might have 80 degrees one day and 30 degrees the next. There can be tornadoes and blizzards in the same week. The summers are sweltering, hot, and humid, and the winters are frigid, windy, and snow-covered.
I have lived here my whole life and thought I had experienced it all, until the frost quakes.
Yep. It was new to me too.
A few weeks ago, we had a lot of rain. The creek behind our house ran high and fast. There was water standing in our yard. The ground was saturated. In true midwest fashion, the weather changed rapidly a few days later. A deep freeze set in, and the temps went from 40 to almost zero nearly overnight.
The brutal polar vortex swept in bringing with it wickedly low windchills and a crazy phemomena called frost quakes. News started reporting strange popping and exploding noises all across the region. At first, this was quite a mystery. Then, the experts offered to clear things up by saying these noises were nothing to worry about and were caused by frost quakes. But, what did that mean?
Learn more about the Science Of Frost
What Is A Frost Quake?
Frost quakes, or cryoseisms, are rare geological phenomena that occurs in when the ground or rock is saturated with water and there is an extreme drop in temperature, usually from above freezing to below zero.
The extreme temperature drop causes the water in the saturated ground to freeze.
This frozen water expands and causes stress on the soil and rock around it.
Sometimes, this stress cracks the soil and rock with such force that it creates a loud sound and could even cause the ground to shake. In rare cases, frost quakes can cause the ground to crack. People report that the frost quakes make a sound like an explosion or like something is hitting their house.
Frost Quake FAQs
Do frost quakes cause damage?
Even though frost quakes may cause the ground to shake, there is not enough power in frost quakes to do any major damage to structures. There have been rare cases of small cracks in the ground, driveways, foundations, or roads thought to be caused by frost quakes.
What is the difference between frost quakes and earth quakes?
Frost quakes are very shallow seismic events, unlike earthquakes that are caused my the moving of tectonic plates deep within the earth’s crust.
Where do frost quakes occur?
Frost quakes can happen anywhere the temperatures can change from above freezing to below zero rapidly. They are more frequent in Canada and the U.S. along the Great Lakes area. Because of the extremely cold weather over the past several winters, many frost quakes have been reported in Illinois and Missouri.
Are you really able to see a frost quake?
Flashing lights have been reported in the same area as frost quakes were heard and felt. This is thought to be caused by the electrical charges of the compressed rock during the event.
Do you live in an area where frost quakes occur? Have you ever experienced one? Have you ever heard of frost quakes?
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