One very cold and quiet evening last week, I was outside accompanying Ginny on her last foray of the day, and heard what sounded like distant fireworks. It was a low rumbling that brought to mind quarry blasting, but it went on and on. I thought the truck stop on the Northway was on fire, but nothing unusual over that way, and there were no fireworks to be seen. What I believe was happening was the sheet of ice covering our hay field was contracting in the extreme cold, and as it broke into large slabs it emitted deep booming noises. The next morning we went for a walk across the field and indeed, the ice had split into irregular sheets in the night. There’s another phenomenon called frost quake, which is when water saturated soil freezes rapidly due to a sudden plunge in temperature and then splits apart. Ice expands slightly as it forms, and in places like plowed parking lots, where there’s no snow to provide insulation, the ground can suddenly crack open thunderously as pressure from below is released. This occurs more commonly on sandy or gravelly soils and foundations can suffer damage. ~ Rob Ivy (Essex Column, Valley News)
I experienced the same eerie sounds and came to the same conclusion less than a week ago. It was almost dark, and I was walking around on the meadow behind the carriage barn with Griffin, enjoying the sensation of walking on frozen snow (without crushing through). Wondering about the sound, the ground cracked audibly – thunderously – a foot in front of me, and for an instant I had the panicky notion that an iceberg was fracturing and I would plunge into the icy depths.
Griffin was startled. He flinched and looked up at me for reassurance. I laughed and he wagged his tail.
We wandered, listening to the booms in the meadow on the other side of the stream. It was truly beautiful. The sound of the cold.
The weather’s been all over the place. Snowy and cold followed by warm and rainy followed by bitterly cold and dry.
These photos are from a cold snap already passed. Since then warmer temperatures and heavy rain reduced the volume of snow, and then temperatures plummeted again. Everything (including the driveway) is covered in 3″ to 6″ of bulletproof ice. It’s pretty lethal!
- It Was So Cold, The Ground Exploded (infiniteunknown.net)
- Not an earthquake, but a frost quake (wwlp.com)
- Ice Quakes? Mysterious Booms Alert Residents (strangesounds.org)
- Frost quakes: Why haven’t we heard of them before? (globalnews.ca)
- Weather phenomenon that only happens when it’s COLD! (washingtonpost.com)