University of Oulu

Okkonen, J., Neupauer, R. M., Kozlovskaya, E., Afonin, N., Moisio, K., Taewook, K., & Muurinen, E. (2020). Frost quakes: Crack formation by thermal stress. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 125, e2020JF005616.

Frost quakes : crack formation by thermal stress

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Author: Okkonen, J.1; Neupauer, R. M.2; Kozlovskaya, E.1;
Organizations: 1Oulu Mining School, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA
3Environmental and Chemical Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.9 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: American Geophysical Union, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-03-11


Fractures in frozen soils (frost quakes) can cause damage to buildings and other infrastructure, but their formation mechanisms remain poorly understood. A methodology was developed to assess thermal stress on soil due to changes in climate and weather conditions and to investigate the connection between thermal stress and frost quakes in central Finland due to brittle fracturing in uppermost soils. A hydrological model was used to simulate snow accumulation and melt, and a soil temperature model was used to simulate soil temperature at different depths beneath the snow pack. The results of modeling, together with measurements of air temperature, snow cover thickness, and soil temperature, were used to calculate temporal variations in thermal stress in soil. We show that frost quakes occur when thermal stress caused by a rapid decrease in temperature exceeds fracture toughness and strength of the soil‐ice mixture. We compared calculated thermal stress on soil, critical stress intensity factor, and a seismogram recorded in a suburban region in central Finland. Our results suggest that this methodology can be used to predict thermal stresses on soil and identify stress values that may lead to fractures of frozen soils, that is, frost quakes.

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Series: Journal of geophysical research. Earth surface
ISSN: 2169-9003
ISSN-E: 2169-9011
ISSN-L: 2169-9003
Volume: 125
Issue: 9
Article number: e2020JF005616
DOI: 10.1029/2020JF005616
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 218 Environmental engineering
212 Civil and construction engineering
1172 Environmental sciences
114 Physical sciences
1171 Geosciences
Dataset Reference: The real‐time seismic data of FN network are freely available from the European Integrated Data Archive (EIDA) that is a part of EPOS Seismology Thematic Core Service ( The research data and corresponding metadata from this research project are deposited to Fairdata IDA Storage Service ( supported by the CSC IT Center for Science. The metadata will be available via Etsin research data finder (, where the metadata are released under the CC BY 4.0 license. Long‐term preservation and sharing of the data will be through the Fairdata IDA Storage Service under CC BY 4.0 license.
Copyright information: © 2020. American Geophysical Union.