Chicago, IL – In the midst of a severe cold snap, residents throughout northern Illinois have been startled by mysterious booming sounds and vibrations, indicative of frost quakes, or cryoseisms.
The natural phenomenon occurs when a rapid drop in temperature causes groundwater beneath the surface to freeze quickly, resulting in a sudden expansion that puts immense pressure on the surrounding soil and bedrock. The pressure builds until it’s released explosively, creating loud noises and sometimes a shaking sensation, often mistaken for seismic activity.
Unlike earthquakes, frost quakes are highly localized and pose no significant danger. They typically occur during the coldest parts of the night, when temperatures plummet to subzero levels.
Conditions favorable for cryoseisms include a rapid temperature decrease, minimal snow cover to insulate the ground, and previously water-saturated soil. While they can be alarming, understanding the causes of frost quakes can reassure residents. These events are a part of the region’s winter landscape, especially as subzero temperatures become more common in areas like northern Illinois.