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January-February 2016

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Frost Quakes: Forecasting the Unanticipated Clatter

A Toronto, Canada, neighborhood blanketed by a few inches of snow glistens beneath the moonlight on a mid-January, winter night. The temperature outside is slightly above freezing as a weather system passes through southern Ontario, dragging with it a significant cold air mass and a temperature that plummets to subzero within 24 hours. As the frigid air converges on the neighborhood, a loud, explosive noise rattles a few homes in the middle of the night. Social media and police stations are flooded with numerous unidentified reports, which include talk of ruptured pipes, gunfire, and bright flashes of light in the vicinity of the blast. The extreme burst of pressure released at the earth's surface was the unexpected roar of a frost quake.

STEVEN M. BATTAGLIA received a B.S. in atmospheric science and geology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

DAVID CHANGNON is a meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University.       

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