Residents of the Northeastern United States have been bracing themselves as bitterly cold Arctic air has swept into the area, bringing single-digit temperatures and negative wind chills across New England and several other states. Frost quakes or cryoseisms could also be a possible result of the cold weather.
Cryoseisms, frost quakes and ice quakes, which are all interchangeable terms for the same thing, are seismic events caused by a sudden fracturing or cracking action in frozen ground, rock or soil that is saturated with water or ice, according to NBC News. Cracks that are large enough can cause shaking motions or loud booms. This is often mistakenly thought to be minor earthquakes.
Rapid temperature drops (like the ones being experienced for much of the region) in short periods of time with air at or below freezing is what triggers them, with them most likely to happen in locations like Canada and the northern U.S.
With the powerful blast of cold air that is bringing dangerous conditions through Saturday night, they are very likely to happen in some capacity, with similar events being reported in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Michigan Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee in recent years.
“Temperatures will be 10 to 30 degrees below average over parts of the Northeast into the coastal mid-Atlantic,” the National Weather Service said in a Saturday bulletin.
While the phenomenon is nothing new, it is part of an increasing trend in rare events occurring due to extreme weather conditions. Other similar events that have occurred in recent months included Atmospheric Rivers in California, which contributed to massive, devastating floods. Climate change is responsible for these types of events as well as the rapid intensification and destruction of hurricanes, Derechos, Bomb Cyclones, and other storms.
A 2016 study revealed that frost quakes would become more frequent as the climate warmed, especially in the winter. In addition, climate change has led to massive costs due to weather disasters in the United States and around the world, with the U.S. alone shelling out more than $165 billion on climate disasters in 2022.
Among those disasters were six separate Severe Weather events including a central Derecho in June, a mega-drought and heat wave, western wildfires, hail storms, flooding, tornados, a major winter storm and three catastrophic hurricanes, including Hurricane Ian, which made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 and cost $112. 9 billion alone in damages.
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