Frost quakes heard across GTA
01/07/2014 08:50 AM Erin Criger
Frost quakes were heard overnight and early Tuesday morning, with dozens of loud booms reported across the GTA.
CityNews meteorologist Natasha Ramsahai said a frost quake is caused when rain and ice seep down into the soil and then freezes when temperatures drop.
“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,” she said.
CityNews and 680News readers certainly heard them, waking up to booms from Burlington to Woodbridge. One person said it sounded like someone breaking into her home!Did you hear one? Let us know.
This graphic explains what causes the frost quakes which have been reported in the GTA since an ice storm on Dec. 21-22, 2013. CITYNEWS
Frost quakes heard across GTA | CityNews
By Mike Strobel
First posted: Tuesday, January 07, 2014 06:38 PM EST | Updated: Tuesday, January 07, 2014 06:56 PM EST
No frostquakes in my downtown neighbourhood so far, other than a hooker or two slipping on the ice.
But everyone else is talking about them. “Frostquake” is a hot new buzzword of this cold spree, along with “polar vortex” and “grocery gift cards.”
Even sober people have reported them across the GTA lately — big bangs that supposedly rattle dishes and wake the dead drunk.
Colleague Don “Pistol” Peat was startled from his slumber at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. “The earth did not move,” he adds, and his wife says it didn’t move for her, either, though it was noisy.
For once the rest of the world is talking about our frostquakes, not our crackheads.
Britain’s Daily Mail reported how citizens of our “notoriously cold nation” were frightened and confused by the sounds.
So frostquakes are new? A symptom of global warming or Miley Cyrus?
Not at all. They’re actually cryoseisms, which occur in locales like your backyard or neighbourhood. Water in saturated ground freezes, expands, then cracks to relieve pressure. Same thing can happen on rivers, lakes, glaciers or in your roof.
I’ll never forget the winter of 1934. You could skate from Toronto to Rochester and newspapers reported a distressing cacophony of snaps, crackles and pops.
This year, too, “we’ve really seen a perfect storm for cryoseisms,” says Dave Phillips, the sage of Environment Canada, starting with the July 8 deluge that soaked the GTA.
Cracking ice sounds like gunshots or a ninja trying to break in. Cops got scores of 911 calls over the holidays.
Luckily, you’re more likely to be eaten by a shark or struck by lightning than to perish in a frostquake.
“Unless it frightens the bejeebers out of you, or you fall off your barstool,” says Phillips.
A frostquake’s bark is bigger than its bite — a slight vibration at most. So it won’t kill you, unless you walk into a tree while texting about one.
Indeed social media is a main cause of outbreaks of frostquakes and other phenomena, such as water spouts, tornadoes, UFOs and sensible Habs fans.
Used to be, you’d hear something weird and discuss it with a neighbour or two. Now, you can announce it to the world, and vice versa.
Sexy hashtags are born, trends develop. Suddenly it’s not just winter, it’s a POLAR VORTEX!
You yell “Cryoseism!” and everybody says ‘Huh? What?’ You yell “Frostquake” and the twitterverse explodes.
We all want to be part of it, to have bravely survived a frostquake.
You can bet a few of those “frostquake” tweets were about a falling twig, a backfire, or a raccoon trying to get warm.
Others, of course, are real, but expect them to peter out, with our new snowfall muffling the din and much of the ice pressure already relieved. Besides, the deep freeze is expected to be gone by week’s end.
But don’t unpack your speedo, unless you are fleeing the frostquake zone for Fiji.
Every sane Canadian knows we face many weeks of bad drivers, sloppy lobbies, runny noses and maddeningly empty bike lanes.
Funny timing, but Phillips, who holds the Order of Canada, was swearing in new Canadians at a citizenship ceremony at Scarborough Town Centre on frigid Tuesday. More than 150 newbies, from every balmy corner of the globe.
“I try to tell them about our weather, how we’re the second coldest country (after Russia) and the snowiest,” says Dave. “But I tell them not to fear.”
Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t all run screaming from the mall and catch the first flight back home.
Strobel’s city column usually runs Monday to Thursday. firstname.lastname@example.org
A view of downtown Toronto on Tuesday from the city's western shoreline. (ERNEST DOROSZUK, Toronto Sun)
Frostquake alert! | Toronto & GTA | News | Toronto Sun