What Is An Ice Quake? Mysterious Booms Hit GTA Due To Frost

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Ice quakes occur when water in the ground expands due to falling temperatures. (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images) | Lucas Oleniuk via Getty Images

It's been a long two weeks for residents of Toronto and surrounding areas, as the aftermath of the ice storm and subsequent frost left many without power for far longer than anticipated, and freezing temperatures made getting around the city difficult. But just as Toronto Hydro reported all power returned to customers on January 1, a new surprise hit the city — ice quakes.

Technically known as cryoseisms, these loud booms result from water in the ground expanding when temperatures drop, according to CBC. The ice and ground beneath it then crumble, making loud noises and occasionally creating electricity.

Torontonians also reported hearing such quakes on Christmas Eve.

“That’s definitely what it was,” David Phillips, Senior Climatologist with Environment Canada, told Global News on Dec. 30. ”It was perfect weather, the perfect condition: not a lot of snow on the ground so the sound wasn’t muffled; it was a very quick drop in temperature; the ground had been saturated from all that wet weather last week, so there was lots of water and ice in the ground."

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Although they sound like earthquakes, ice quakes have nothing to do with shifting tectonic plates and, therefore, do not pose the same danger. These "quakes" are far more localized, sometimes affecting only one house at a time, though Toronto Reddit users widely reported them in areas varying from Brampton to Thornhill to Don Mills.

With temperatures in Ontario dropping to anywhere from -20°C to -36°C, residents who have already experienced plenty of new phenomenon this season are bracing for more.

Around the Web

Cryoseism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

'Ice quakes' wake Toronto residents on cold night

Hearing loud bangs in southern Ontario? It was likely an 'ice quake'

Everything you need to know about frost quakes

More mysterious booms heard around GTA

Christmas Eve 'boom' heard due to frost quake

Mysterious Christmas Eve 'boom' heard and felt around GTA

Deep freeze: Toronto remains under wind chill warning