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Hear a loud boom this weekend? It could have been ‘frost quakes’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Several WISH-TV viewers reached out over the weekend over concerns of what they called loud “pops” or “booms” Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

While there isn’t hard evidence, there is a decent possibility that these noises were called by a phenomenon called cryoseisms, also known as “frost quakes.”

According to frostquake.org, a frost quake is “a natural phenomenon that occurs when extremely cold temperatures lead to sudden deep freezing of the ground, after it has been saturated with water.” When this occurs, the sudden freeze will cause underground ice to expand, causing soil and rock to crack, which will produce these “booms”, and in more extreme cases, shakes.

Many of our reports came out of Delaware county and surrounding areas over the weekend. While there were no extreme temperatures swings from the end of the week into the weekend, we did have two things that could have led to some of these minor frost quakes. The first is the melting of snow. Remember, Muncie reported over 8″ of snow from the Jan. 12 snow storm.

Much of that melted through the week, so there was plenty of moisture in the ground. Add to that some of the sleet, freezing rain and rain this past Saturday, and that leads to a very saturated ground.

The second ingredient would be extreme could. Overnight lows from Saturday night to Sunday morning fell to the single digits in and around Delaware County. That’s plenty cold enough for a “flash freeze”, meaning all of that previously mentioned moisture froze quickly.

While it hasn’t been cold long enough for a deep soil freeze a few feet in the ground, certainly with the amount of saturation that occurred could have lead to some of these smaller “frost quake” scenarios on a smaller scale.

Frost quakes are not commonly reported with damage or injuries. They are mostly observed during the coldest parts of the night, right around the pre-dawn hours.

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