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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
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Ice Quake! Earth-Shattering Cold

Ice Quake! Earth-Shattering Cold

As we predicted, this winter has so far proved to be an extremely cold one, with sub-zero temperatures across much of the U.S. and Canada. In fact, the blast of arctic air that has descended on us over the last month has brought on the coldest winter of the 21st century, and the coldest in a few decades in most areas.

This extreme cold has led to increased reports of a little-known phenomenon called cryoseism. More popularly known as ice quakes or frost quakes, because they feel and sound like minor earthquakes, cryoseism is most common on glaciers, where ice is continually expanding and contracting, leading to great booming cracks as fissures form in the ice.

But ice quakes can also happen on solid land, particularly when soil saturated by rain or melted snow drops in temperature from above freezing to subzero over a short period of time. As the moisture in the soil freezes, it expands.

This rapid expansion places stress on the bedrock below, which can sometimes crack under the pressure with an explosive pop.

The telltale signs of an ice quake are a booming sound, brief shaking, as in a minor earthquake, but in a very localized area, and usually a small crack in the ground, though the latter might be hard to identify in deep snow.

Many people who have experienced ice quakes initially thought there had been an earthquake, and were surprised to find that no one else experienced it.

Ice quakes have been reported in most of Canada. In the United States, only a handful of states experience ice quakes, all located in New England and the Great Lakes region: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Have you ever experienced an ice quake? Share your story below!

21 comments

1 Tommy { 03.25.14 at 1:26 pm }

I live in Hopewell Junction, Dutchess County NY. On Saturday night 3/22/14 there was an extremely loud booming noise that rattled the house for a brief second. I thought nothing of it except that it was weird and after I checked the yard and house to find nothing, went back to sleep. THe next day I was asked by a few neighbors and my cousin who lives about 2 miles away if I heard/felt the noise. I was surprised to hear they heard it as well. All i could find was that it may have been an “ice quake” and since it was warm in the days prior and some of the snow melted, then the temps dropped low quickly it does make sense. Anyone else have any ideas?

2 chip { 03.07.14 at 5:54 pm }

SE Iowa – Experienced a couple of big booms/bangs what seemed like something crashing down upstairs, a giant snowball against the house, or a large tree limb through the attic. Went upstairs to inspect it and nothing was out of the ordinary. The floor shook and I wondered what the heck just happened. First time ever experiencing this type of frost quake. It happened on 3/2/2014 around 8pm.

I found this post doing a general search for frost quakes, and I’m a bit relieved to see that others have experienced these mysterious booms as well.

3 Susan { 03.03.14 at 2:39 pm }

I live in rural Iowa and have been awakened several nights at around 3:30 am to huge bangs/booms. One night, I was walking to the kitchen when I experienced this. At that time, glass in an antique cabinet rattled and I felt the rumble under my feet. I’m glad I know what they were but it doesn’t make them any less frightening.

4 Geoff { 03.01.14 at 2:41 pm }

I failed to mention that my son has been hearing these same sounds at his home.

5 Geoff { 03.01.14 at 2:39 pm }

I have been hearing sounds similar to those described by others. It almost sounds like a large branch has fallen onto my deck, and there is a significant accompanying thud which can be felt on the floor. I hear these sounds mostly in the evening, and I have heard them both from inside the house and when outside. They are occasional, perhaps one or two a week. In the 35 years I have lived in my home, I’ve never heard these noises before. I live in south central Connecticut, and my son lives in western central Connecticut.

6 Arla { 02.27.14 at 11:44 am }

The last few weeks at least twice a week we have been hearing loud thuds or booms that vibrate the windows. I’ve checked the roof the back of the house the front of the house ..and see nothing! It sounds as if something large like a tree limb has dropped onto the roof or the deck but nothing is there! It’s getting a little unnerving! The one this morning was louder than most and being downstairs in the basement office we were sure it was a large limb fallen …but again
nothing there.

7 Katie { 02.12.14 at 10:44 am }

We have been experiencing loud noises that sound like a tree fell on the house and it is enough to wake us up out of sound sleep. The house shakes. Last night heard them 11 times. The dogs start barking. Last night we had sub-zero temps here in southeastern Michigan.

8 Lu Ann Bollinger { 02.11.14 at 10:40 pm }

I have been hearing these ice quakes.every night almost the same time around 8:30.to 9:00.in west central Illinois.

9 Linda Burda { 02.07.14 at 4:04 pm }

I live in NE Ohio & we think we might have experienced our first ice quake. Yesterday morning at 5:00 a.m. we heard a loud noise. It sounded as though something had hit the side of our house. It sounded as though it would have been a rather large “something”. We all joked that maybe it was Bigfoot hitting up against the house. It certainly got us up & going for the day!

10 Connie Richards { 02.07.14 at 1:50 pm }

We experienced this twice so far. Once last week and again at 3:00 this morning. We live in central Ohio and were told these were ice quakes. The first time, we were in the living room watching television in the evening and heard it about 4 different times. Each time it came from a different location outside. This morning, the first one was loud enough to make my husband and I jump up out of bed. It made the stuff on the wall rattle. It was right outside our bedroom. I think it made 2 or 3 more sounds, but 2 of them were not so loud and they came from different locations. I think I remember someone also saying to check the foundation, any gas and water lines for damage.

11 Jo Curl { 02.06.14 at 11:44 pm }

I was sitting in our bedroom and heard a crashing noise that shook the house. Now because we live close to the Howell freight yards I immediately ruled out the trains. Been here 55 years know the difference. It startled me enough that I got up and was met by my husband who thought it was a gun shot outside the house. We went out to investigate and saw nothing out of the ordinary. I ventured maybe it was ice on the roof. This all happened around 7:45 p.m. Today 2/6. Did anyone else feel this? Just curios. J Curl

12 Lisa DeJesse { 02.06.14 at 8:24 am }

New Years Eve I heard an explosively loud boom and the house shook and the neighbor’s around me, half of the town heard it. The police never figured that one out. Husband thought is might be at least 3 M-80′s – so it was a huge event for our small town in NE Connecticut.
There is a pond across the street in the woods and a small lake in town.

13 Grazyna { 02.05.14 at 10:58 pm }

We heard a very loud boom on Christmas day. Thought the house was breaking. Later found out over people heard the same noise in surrounding towns and found out that it was an ice quake. Alexander, Cooper towns in down east Maine.

14 Angie Gentley { 02.05.14 at 9:07 pm }

Our local tv station, WCAX Burlington, VT did a report on a frost quake at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car location…put a fissure right into the asphalt of the parking lot. Lots of reports of frost quakes up here this year…we just barely got a good snow today; prior to that, not much snow, just frigid. More frost quakes as there was no snow to insulate the ground.

15 Valerie { 02.05.14 at 5:42 pm }

I live in upper East Tennessee and we heard a loud boom last Saturday evening. It sounded like an explosion. Facebook lit up with others hearing it a few towns away. Its been said that it was ice quakes.

16 Shirley Munz { 02.05.14 at 5:12 pm }

For years I have hear our house make cackling sounds in the winter time.

17 Kathy Faulk { 02.05.14 at 4:14 pm }

I live in southern Indiana off State Road 48 which is near Shakamak State Park.We have heard these unusual loud noises day and night really make you wonder what is going on underground? They started in November and still happen- I don’t believe it is the freeze and thaw at all

18 Barbara { 02.05.14 at 3:05 pm }

I have heard banging or popping sounds mostly at night. I had never heard something like that either. I assumed it had something to do with the cold. I live in Northern Colorado. It’s the coldest winter I’ve experienced here. I’ve lived here since 1987.

19 Judy McKinney { 02.05.14 at 11:00 am }

The Sunday night of the Super Bowl , I heard three loud pounding sounds on my roof that definitely got my attention. I didn’t know until the next day that other people in our town heard it also, and it was posted on Facebook that they was called Ice or Frost quakes. I’m just glad to know my roof wasn’t getting ready to cave in.

20 Shannon { 02.05.14 at 9:04 am }

Interesting but i haven’t heard any of were I live in Ohio

21 Bobbi { 02.04.14 at 6:46 pm }

We experienced what we believe to be ice quakes here in Missouri yesterday morning. We heard several loud pounding sounds and thought someone was hitting our outside or basement wall. Immediately after, our lights began to flicker on only one side of our house. Then we lost partial power throughout the house but not everywhere. Within a few minutes it all came back on and the popping pounding sounds stopped. On the news that evening we learned that other people in our area had experienced the pounding sounds, but no one else mentioned the interference with power. The local weatherman confirmed there was such a thing as ice quakes, which we had never heard of before. We had been experiencing snow, sleet, and temperature changes during the days prior.

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