What are Frost Quakes?

With winter officially starting just a few weeks ago, the GTA has already experienced the ravaging effects winter can bring. The ice storm just before Christmas marked the start of a very unseasonable chill that was just the beginning of a series of rare climatic occurrences GTA residents have endured. The night of Christmas Eve, many residents of GTA experienced a phenomenon known as a Frost Quake which created a loud boom accompanied by house shaking, rattling many right out of their slumber. Frost quakes can feel like earthquakes but are caused by deep underground water and moisture freezing when temperatures plummet after rain or snow penetrates the ground. The freezing moisture expands which causes the ground to crack, creating the loud boom and earthquake like shaking. Once a meteorological rarity, frost quakes have become known all too well to GTA residents thanks to people taking to social media to report their first-hand accounts.

Frost Quake 300x199 image courtesy of City News

Frost Quakes or cryoseisms as they’re known to Meteorologists, typically occur in extreme Polar Regions of the globe. With the GTA daytime highs plummeting well below seasonal, comes even colder nights which is when these frost quakes are most likely to occur; between midnight and dawn. There have been numerous accounts of this phenomenon in the GTA since Dec 24th, however luckily no harm has been reported, aside from the harm to your restful night’s sleep. In fact according to Allison Bent, a seismologist with Earthquakes Canada there hasn’t been any damage from a frost quake. “You can feel the shaking, but as far as I’m aware there’s never been any damage from a frost quake,” she said, comparing it to a very weak earthquake.

Frost Quake Earth 300x224

These sorts of quakes are very localized, and may only affect one house at a time. The reason we’ve been seeing so many of them recently is because we seem to be producing the perfect geological conditions for them. Heavy snow and freezing rain, followed by warmer spikes that allow for some melting and moisture penetration, further followed by flash freezing and drastic drops in temperature. One thing is for certain, frost quakes are now part of the GTA’s permanent vocabulary. Frost quakes might be frightening and alarming, but the good news is that they’re not severe enough to cause damage to your basement or house. So if you do experience one, you can focus on getting back to sleep!