January 3, 2014 7:30 pm

Frost quakes: Why haven’t we heard of them before?

ABOVE: More frost quakes heard around GTA. Mark Carcasole reports. 

TORONTO – More people across southern Ontario were shocked out of bed in the early hours as more booms rocked their homes.

Early Friday morning, the sounds were heard in the GTA between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.

It seems that the mysterious sounds have set social media afire, with “frostquake” trending on Google and Twitter.

READ MORE: Mysterious Christmas Eve ‘boom’ heard and felt around GTA

The booms, first heard on Christmas Eve, first set social media abuzz on Christmas Eve. More followed on Dec. 29.

What made the booms particularly interesting was that they were felt over a wide area, from southwestern Ontario all the way to Belleville. However, the times in each location varied.

READ MORE: Mysterious Christmas Eve ‘boom’ heard and felt around GTA

Frost quakes, or cryoseisms, occur due to freezing temperatures.

Though usually they can occur after a thaw and then rapid melt, the quakes that people felt Friday morning came after a night of deep cold. So could this still be a frost quake? The temperature in Toronto was -15.2 C on Thursday — nowhere near a thaw.

WATCH: Geoff Coulson of Environment Canada describes a frost quake and discusses why we haven’t heard of them before

It very well could be a frost quake, even without the melt. Ice isn’t the same at every temperature. Ice around -5 C is more flexible than ice around -20 C. There is the possibility that the colder ice builds up over time and once it reaches an expansion it can crack rock or soil.

Many people are asking why they hadn’t heard of frost quakes before.


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The answer may be twofold: Ice storm and social media.

“I think you need to have a number of ingredients come together to get the phenomena to be really noticeable by a number of people. The rapid temperature changes over Christmas; the ice storm getting moisture into the ground which is coming together,” said Geoff Coulson, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist with Environment Canada.

Coulson also added that the last time Toronto had seen a prolonged deep freeze like the current one, was 1996.

“I think these events have happened in previous years, but one of the big differences…has been the presence of social media. People may have in past years reported this, maybe phoned 911, local police were involved, they couldn’t really track anything down, were wondeirng what this was. Well now you’ve got within the Twitterverse on Facebook, people saying, ‘Okay I wasn’t crazy last night, there really was a boom last night.’”

Whatever the explanation, people are getting tired of being woken up by the loud sounds. But as temperatures will be cold for one more night, you may want to sleep with ear plugs.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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