Report: Siberan Air Mass (a.k.a. #PolarVortex) Causes “Frost Quakes”

Since the Siberian air mass or polar vortex arrived in the northeastern U.S., the National Weather Service says there have been numerous reports of a rare seismic event called frost quakes.

When arctic air blasts through the Northeast and New England this weekend, it could cause a rare weather phenomenon called frost quakes.

Frost quakes, also known as ice quakes or cryoseisms, are seismic events caused by a sudden fracturing or cracking action in frozen ground, soil or rock that is saturated with water or ice. If the cracking is big enough, the process can cause a shaking motion and a loud boom. For this reason, they are often mistaken for minor earthquakes.

Frost quakes occur when very cold air interacts with soil that is saturated after recent rain or snow has seeped into the ground.

They are triggered by a rapid temperature drop in a short amount of time when the air is at or below freezing. The cold air suddenly freezes the liquid water in the ground, causing expansion, which then causes stress and pressure to build up. The result causes soil and rocks to crack, which can make a booming sound and produce minor shaking. 

NBC News cites a 2016 study saying that frost quakes would become more frequent as the climate warmed and, not surprisingly, there are already attempts to blame the entire weather phenomenon on climate change (i.e. blame you). However, frost quakes are not strong enough to be damaging and if the planet is warming, then there will be fewer frost quakes, not more resulting from less cold weather. Therefore, the planet’s warming is a good thing.