Christmas frostquake in Toronto

A rare but natural freezing event caused booming sounds in Canada.

Mysterious Christmas Eve ‘boom’ heard and felt around GTA |

Around 11 p.m. Christmas Eve, people reported hearing a loud “boom” in Toronto, Newmarket, Aurora, Belleville, Richmond Hill, and Sutton. Not only was the boom heard, but it rattled houses, leaving many to believe that a tree had fallen on their rooftop.

So what was it?

The most likely explanation is that it was a cryoseism, also known as a frost quake.

Cryoseisms are rare, localized seismic events that occur when a sudden drop in temperature freezes the groundwater, which then expands and cracks the soil and rock. The crack will release a sudden burst of explosive energy, resulting in a loud noise and the shaking of the ground. They usually occur between midnight and dawn.

People reported other booms as well. But no seismic event was recorded. Cryoseisms take unique temperature conditions to occur. The sudden freezing may cause tiny fissures to open wide or crack rock and roadways. More.

The Maine Geological Survey has info on cryoseisms.

They typically occur in the first cold snap of the year when temperatures drop from above freezing to below zero, particularly if there is no snow cover to insulate the ground. The primary way that they are recognized is that, in contrast to an earthquake, the effects of a cryoseism are very localized. In some cases, people in houses a few hundred yards away do not notice anything. The reason that the vibrations do not travel very far is that cryoseisms don’t release much energy compared with a true earthquake caused by dislocation of rock within the earth. On the other hand, since cryoseisms occur at the ground surface they can cause significant effects right at the site, enough to jar people awake. Cryoseisms typically occur between midnight and dawn, during the coldest part of the night. If conditions are right, they may occur in a series of booms and shakes over a few hours or even on successive nights.

Because of the breaking rock, a few historical ice quakes were reportedly accompanied by flashes of light (equivalent to earthquake lights) as electricity is discharged from the rock under stress.

In a scary twist (though I should no longer be surprised at this stuff), a few on mystery mongering forums, like Above Top Secret, wish for this to stay mysterious and propose ridiculous alternative explanations and coverups about rift zones and lake faults, etc. The most likely answer is not that hard to comprehend. Yet, for some, they prefer to remain in an alternate state, ignorant of the power of nature to be fabulous all by itself. No mystery entities required.

  4 comments for “Christmas frostquake in Toronto

  1. December 27, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    I’ve experienced something similar to this with lake ice. Quick changes in temps can cause large fractures and loud booms. Not so bad if you are on shore, but if you are ice-fishing in the middle of the lake and the lake cracks right underneath you with a very loud boom, it will scare the bleep out of you.

  2. December 27, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    There were a lot of not-so-mysterious sounds in Toronto this week. Tree branches were encased in very thick ice Saturday evening. Walking home Sunday night, I heard several crashes as tree limbs snapped off and fell through other ice-stiffened branches. During the week, in my travels, I noted a few trees that had fallen over completely.

    I think tree falls could be behind some “booms.” A few years ago, wood-burrowing insects killed the trees in our backyard. One fell over. I was in the basement when the house was filled with a deep and heavy rumbling sound. I thought the brick tool shed had collapsed. But it was only the force of the tree fall transferring through the ground and into the house.

    This might explain how there were booms but no seismic activity.

  3. eddi
    December 28, 2013 at 1:26 AM

    The mystery mongers demand that the world live up to their idea of dramatic excitement. The fact that their ideas have ta lower level of suspended disbelief as really cheeseball sci-fi TV (eg Lost In Space) simply shows they completely lack any hint of creativity in their minds or romance in their hearts.

    Dear Lost In Space fans, please don’t take my remark to heart. Will Robinson and the Robot were my childhood friends. And I still have the mental muscle to get a kick out of reruns.

  4. Lagaya1
    December 28, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Water has to be the most amazing substance on earth with all it’s shapes, properties, and uses. This is a new one to me. I’ll add it to my mental collection.

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