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Frost Quakes Rattle the GTA

Several frost quakes in and around the Greater Toronto Area have been waking people up since Wednesday night.

If you felt the ground shake over the past few bitterly cold days you are not alone.  Several frost quakes in and around the Greater Toronto Area have been waking people up since Wednesday night. 

On NewsTalk1010's Moore in the Morning, Cathy Woodgold, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada says that when water in the ground freezes, it expands and it has to get the extra room from somewhere.

“A sudden drop in temperature builds up tremendous stress because there’s just no room for all of that ice and something will suddenly crack and that is a frost quake.”said Woodgold.

Woodgold says if you are close to a frost quake it can feel like an earthquake but it’s different in that it's at the surface.

“Like a small earthquake it can give your house a little bit of a shake and if you are very close to it, it might cause something to fall off of the shelf or that kind of thing.  It wouldn’t be a big earthquake.”

Frost quakes can cause loud booming noises.  Similar noises were heard in the Toronto area on Christmas Eve and on December 30th.

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  1. Green Queen posted on 01/03/2014 08:20 AM
    Is the water in the ground expanding or contracting? The cracks in the ground are caused by contractions - ground expansion causes heaving.
    1. tanjo posted on 01/03/2014 10:42 AM
      @Green Queen I'm too lazy to look it up, but I'm pretty sure they are using "crack" as a verb. (e.g. When water freezes, it expands and "cracks" the pipes.") When it melts it will leave a "crack" (noun) in the ground.

      Is this the first discussion on "crack" that does not involve the mayor?
    2. Will posted on 01/03/2014 01:29 PM
      @Green Queen I have a BSc ("Bronze Swimming Certificate", for all the Red Dwarf fans out there :-) ) though not in any environmental science, but I'll try my best to give a decent answer.

      At least I'm not claiming to be a climate scientist while holding a degree in something else! :-) (Hello David Suzuki)

      For the vast majority of substances, their freezing / solidification temperature is also the temperature at which the substance's molecular structure is at its most dense, ie., the substance will not expand or contract any further.

      That said, if I recall correctly, water is a rare exception to this rule, because although its freezing temperature is 0 Celsius, it is most dense at 4 Celsius. In other words, when water freezes, it *expands* instead of contracting. This is why water pipes can burst when water freezes in homes without heat.

      Similarly, the expansion of ice in the ground could probably cause these "frost quakes", although I have never heard of this phenomenon before.
  2. john posted on 01/03/2014 10:49 AM
    i am hearing in 680 news people have been calling the police reporting gun shots . lol . bet that got the police hoping all night .
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