What is Frost Quake?

Climate change is one thing, but severe weather events are becoming more frequent. Sometimes, these events can be natural disasters like floods or hurricanes, but they can also be more human caused, like earthquakes or tornadoes. While these events have affected the lives of millions of people, not everyone has been affected by them. For example, back in the 1950s, very few people knew about the phenomenon of frost quakes; today, though, they are pretty commonplace.

Look outside, and you will see that winter’s on its way. The National Weather Service explains that frost pockets develop when warm air rises and cold air sinks, causing pockets of air to contract and get colder. These pockets stay cool, and they slowly expand. Eventually, the pressure builds up so much that the cool air bursts out. The blast of wind, known as “frost quakes,” usually occurs early in the morning or late afternoon, and they may last less than 10 seconds. Some people call them “hurricane gusts,” but the National Weather Service says these are not hurricanes.

If you looked outside your window and saw small ice crystals dusting the tree branches and sidewalk, you might have witnessed a frost quake. Frost quakes occur when large, warm bodies of water, like lakes or rivers, freeze over before the smaller pond or streams beneath them do. The frost quakes are the ripples created from those frozen waters moving and breaking free, breaking all of the ice around them.

Frost quakes are, without a doubt, one of the coolest natural phenomena occurring all around us. They are most commonly experienced in the winter when cold air hits a warmer ground rock and emits a “squeaky” cry. However, frost quakes can also occur in warmer weather when water, ice, or snow melt suddenly, causing a tiny landslide.

Frost Quake is the name given to the phenomenon wherein glacial ice, and glacier valleys start to rumble and shake as a result of a process known as glacial quakes. Glacier quakes occur when warm, moist air from warmer regions near the ground rises up through cracks in the ice. As it rises, it carries water, dirt, and debris with it, creating miniature avalanches that build up and release energy when they hit the surface of the ice.

Frost quakes are a unique phenomenon. They occur when tiny ice crystals form on trees in extreme cold, which causes them to shatter. Frost quakes create strange sounds that can be heard during cold winter nights. Scientists think these noises are caused by tiny water droplets that form on windows, walls, and other objects in your home. These droplets are super cold, so when they collide with each other, they sound like loud pops or bangs.

Frost quakes can also be large, loud, and scary-sounding events often associated with extreme cold periods. These seismic-like events are caused by water expanding when it freezes. Frost quakes can occur anywhere that has frozen or frozen wet ground—like a frozen lake, lakeshore, or pond. But, unlike earthquakes, frost quakes rarely cause any damage.

As frost forms, it absorbs moisture from the air, raising the surrounding air’s freezing point. This freezes the moisture in the soil, which triggers a chain reaction. As the frost gets colder, the ice expands, and when it hits an obstacle, such as a tree root, it pops and generates vibrations. These vibrations can sound like thunder, and frost quakes can even cause limbs to break.

Frost quakes are a rare meteorological phenomenon, occurring when the ground freezes and thaws rapidly, causing the ground to vibrate and visibly shake. When the ground is frozen from below, the vibrations are transmitted through the ground until it springs back to the surface, resulting in an audible rumble. The phenomenon is most common in cold, mountainous regions, where the ground freezes and thaws rapidly.

Frost quakes are unusual seismic events that happen when pavement or concrete is frozen. They create vibrations that mimic the sound of thunder. Because these events are silent and happen at night, they are difficult to detect without careful recording. But in 2013, a research team used GPS sensors to geolocate the first-ever recorded frost quakes. Their findings revealed how frost quakes occur, and this could help cities prepare for them in the future.