September 22, 2020

FrostQuake4

BY BECKY SHEASBY

A huge number of gunshots, vandalism and breaking and entering were reported over the past few weeks to police by concerned citizens  in southern Ontario. Police were quick to discover that the supposed crimes were all connected. It wasn’t a crime spree that was waking up citizens in the middle of the night, but rather a rare weather phenomenon called “frost quakes.”

“The sound made me jump. I couldn’t figure out what had made the noise until I saw it on the news a couple days later. I had been convinced it was a gunshot,” said Emily Beckett, a Kitchener resident.

Frost quakes, technically known as “cryoseisms,” are thunderous bangs that sometimes even shake the ground. They occur when the temperature plummets so low that ground water freezes and causes the ice to expand. The expanding ice cracks the rocks and earth it’s near which is what causes the sonic sound. In Kitchener the temperature dropped to approximately -23 C overnight with a wind chill making it feel like -41 C.

“It’s like having a lid on top of a bottle,” said Jay Scotland, a CBC meteorologist in a CBC article. “Pressure builds and builds until finally something gives. The ice expands, the pressure is released, the ground cracks and we hear what sounds or even feels like a very localized earthquake.”

Social media immediately blew up with reports of the loud pops and trembling patches of earth. Many people didn’t know what the cause of the noise was and called the police.
“Awakened by a loud boom. Thought a family member was in trouble,” said a tweet by @janineBaijnath.

There are no known dangers to the frost quakes. If you happen to be close to one when it strikes, you might feel a rumble in the ground, but not enough of the frost quake’s energy reaches the surface for people to feel it at a distance.

Due to the surprising nature, it is advised that on the coldest winter days you exercise alertness while driving to avoid being startled.

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