Bizarre cold-weather phenomena called frost quakes — which generate shaking and ear-splitting sounds likened to exploding bombs — have blasted towns across the Northeast and upper Midwest during this extraordinarily frigid winter.
Thanks to social media reports, researchers have been able to study frost quake reports submitted from Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Canada and talk to those who felt and heard the unsettling booms and shakes.
A cryoseism, also known as an ice quake or a frost quake, may be caused by a sudden cracking action in frozen soil or rock saturated with water or ice. As water drains into ground, it may eventually freeze and expand under colder temperatures, putting stress on its surroundings. This stress builds up until relieved explosively in the form of a cryoseism.
Another type of cryoseism is a non-tectonic seismic event caused by sudden glacial movements. This movement has been attributed to a veneer of water which may pool underneath a glacier sourced from surface ice melt. Hydraulic pressure of the liquid can act as a lubricant, allowing the glacier to suddenly shift position.[ This type of cryoseism can be very brief, or may last for several minutes.
The requirements for a cryoseism to occur are numerous; therefore, accurate predictions are not entirely possible and may constitute a factor in structural design and engineering when constructing in an area historically known for such events. Speculation has been made between global warming and the frequency of cryoseisms.