canada frost quakes cryoseisms boom noise loud cold freeze

Toronto sits in Winter's death grip.     Photo: Cary Westfall/

Frost Quakes Rock Canada

Loud booms caused by freezing ground water

Ever ahead of the cold-weather curve, Canadians are now reporting the occurrence of "frost quakes" around Toronto and Ontario. The frost quakes make their presence known in the form of a loud booming sound that can be mistaken for an explosion.

Also known as a "cryoseism," a frost quake occurs when water penetrates the soil and then rapidly freezes. With temperatures in the area reaching minus four degrees Fahrenheit, the quakes are becoming more frequent.

"Water expands when it freezes and when it expands in frozen soil it literally puts a lot of stress on that dirt and will release that energy all of a sudden, very much like an earthquake releases that energy and shifts the ground," says meteorologist Natasha Ramsahai.

Although frost quakes can be startling, they are not a threat to people or even structures. According to the Maine Geological Survey, cryoseisms release very little energy compared to a true earthquake and their vibrations tend to dissipate after a just a few hundred yards.

Nonetheless, they are still very rare. The Toronto Star spoke to Environment Canada Meteorologist Geoff Coulson, who said that this was his first experience with the phenomenon in nearly 30 years.


  •  In Chicago, windows are completely frozen, and some car windows have ice on the inside.

  • Hundreds of apartment dwellers in Rogers, Minnesota, were evacuated Sunday morning when a propane heating system exploded from the cold.

  • Rock salt is is ineffective for thawing ice on roads. Several roadways in Illinois are now closed due to drifting snow.

  • See also: Jim Cantore: the World's Most Fearless Meteorologist 

    Are you affected by the polar vortex? Post how cold it is for you in the comments.