What’s the loud boom I hear in my lawn? Frost quakes

by Kyle Tobin

That’s right, your lawn isn’t wrestling with eating too much over the holidays, but it is making strange, loud and unusual noises, deep down below.
They are actually called a cryoseism or also commonly referred to as “frost quakes”. So rest assured it’s not going to explode!

The Greater Toronto areas has been experiencing extreme cold lately, and because of that, we’ve also had extreme temperature shifts.  (like when it went to a balmy +2 or +3 deg C. last week, allowing us to scrape the 2″ of ice off our cars and driveways and kill our backs!-ugh).  This was in addition to the damaging ice storm experienced through Dec 21-23rd 2013. (see more on the tree damage in another blog)

The “above-freezing” temperatures (snowmelt, rain or sleet) allows water to seep into the soil, and when we are followed by extreme cold, this water freezes and expands creating the sound that many people are witnessing.  Really, its a big stress relief for the soil.  The sound isn’t much different than the the ice cubes cracking in your drink as you pour a warmer liquid, or its exposed to warm air (although its scale outside makes it much louder!)

Will it cause damage to my lawn or trees?  It’s possible, but that is due to the natural frost heaving that occurs every winter that many are unaware of, the more frost heaving, the more potential for shifting soils and the ripping and tearing of roots, (which could cause some damage to your lawn’s and tree’s root systems.) That’s another reason why its best to keep them properly cared for with the right amount of nutrition and overseeding to repair the damage each year.

Whats interesting to those of us interested in soil structures, is that these are thought to be most common in sandy or gravel soils which leads me to wonder- what area did you hear a cryoseism in this winter?

Let us know in your comments.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: