frost quake
n. A brief but loud ground tremor caused by underground moisture freezing, expanding, and then cracking due to the increased pressure.

Example Citations:
As overnight temperatures in Toronto dipped to -20 C, many people again reported hearing loud booms, which CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland says was likely the result of a “frost quake.”
—“‘Frost quakes’ wake Toronto residents on cold night,” CBC News, January 3, 2014

Frost quakes, a rare phenomena that simulate earthquakes, rattled hundreds of residents Thursday in Darke and Miami counties in Ohio and Randolph County in Indiana, emergency management officials said.
—Steve Bennish, “Frost quakes’ shake Southwest Ohio, Indiana,” Dayton Daily News, February 11, 2011

Earliest Citation:
His office has been getting calls from people having problems with grit and sand getting into their well water this winter. He said the theory is that the deep frost is setting off frost quakes — a shift in the ground similar to fractures on ice — which disturbs the seals of well casings, allowing silt to get into the pipe.
—Beth Quimby, “Below ground, below zero,” Portland Press Herald, March 4, 2004

The scientific term for a frost quake — a cryoseism — dates to at least 1992.

Related Words: