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Friday, January 10, 2014

Did I Experience A Frost Quake?

"When it was so cold out, I heard a loud sound and felt my house shake. I heard it might have been a frost quake. Could you give me more information about that?" The extreme temperatures on January 6th and 7th caused the Newton Falls Public Library to close, and we wouldn't be surprised if they caused some strange weather conditions as well.

Breanna Draxler explains the science behind frost quakes in an article for the Discover Magazine blog. Also called cryoseisms, frost quakes occur when a cold snap follows a warm spell. Rain and melting snow seep into the earth, and then when it's cold again, they freeze and expand, cracking the frozen soil around them as they do. Frost quakes typically happen between midnight and dawn, when the night's at its coldest. They're fairly rare, and, fortunately, they don't often cause any damage.

According to Bob Downing's article in the Akron Beacon Journal, there's no way to prove that the loud boom that some Northeast Ohio residents experienced was a frost quake. However, the conditions were ideal, so it's a strong possibility. If people have been hearing their houses creak a lot lately, that can also be explained by the weather -- wood contracts in the cold, and wood joints may move a fraction of an inch.

For more information on unusual weather conditions, the Newton Falls Public Library has the National Audubon Society's Field Guide to Weather, Christopher C. Burt's Extreme Weather, and Bruce Buckley, Edward J. Hopkins, and Richard Whitaker's Weather: A Visual Guide available for borrowing.

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