Ice Quakes

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Ice Crystals

Anybody heard any sonic booms in the middle of this deep freeze? Maybe if you live in Florida or California or someplace outside the U.S., you don’t really care about those of us trapped in the swirling snow of the polar vortex, but much of the rest of this country has seen freezing temperatures on a record scale. And with those crazy temps comes a phenomenon that many have never heard of—ice quakes.

Called a cryoseism, it’s a cracking of the ground that comes from a sudden deep freezing of the water in the ground. Many times these quakes are heard as loud booms accompanied by a short-lived shaking. People have described them as sounding like a blown transformer, a sonic boom, a car accident and even a plane crash.

Ice quakes occur near the surface, so there’s no danger of prolonged shaking and little risk of property damage. If you want to hear one, they usually occur between midnight and dawn during the coldest part of the night. This explains why I’ve never heard one since I’m dead asleep at that time.

The explanation for ice quakes lies in the properties God gave to water. Unlike most liquids, water expands when it freezes because of the shape of the water molecule. If rain seeps down into cracks during warmer periods and then rapidly freezes when the temperature plummets, the ice expands and pushes on the surrounding material. Stress builds up until the pressure is released by the ground cracking.

Thanks to this frigid winter, ice quakes have been reported in the Midwest, Canada, the Northeast, and even parts of the south, like North Carolina and Tennessee. Ice quakes are nothing to be afraid of, but if a loud boom wakes you up in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t blame you if you called the police.

What about you? Have you actually heard one? What do you think it sounds like?

 

References: http://abcnews.go.com/US/tennessee-residents-mistake-frost-quakes-airplane-crash-explosions/story?id=29101755, http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/icequakes-cause-earth-to-crack/21985456

Photo Credit: ID 7623341 © Kati Molin | Dreamstime.com

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