W. KY Residents Baffled by 'Boom' Phenomenon
By Tim Brockwell
WESTERN KY - If you're one of many western Kentucky residents who have heard strange "booms" recently, you may be wondering exactly what is causing the peculiar phenomenon.

Social media has been abuzz lately with accounts of the mysterious sounds. Some have described them as rumblings, a bit like muted thunder. Others say they feel the vibrations in the ground. Still others have reported items in their homes being rattled, along with their nerves. There is little question that something is behind the booms, but the exact cause has not yet been identified.

Hooked on Science Guy Jason Lindsey said there are a couple of theories that could explain the vibrations.

"Up in the Northwest, they had reports of these booms going on a few years back, and it turned out to be shallow earthquakes happening close to the surface. Instead of doing the damage and the rocking and rolling that you sometimes experience with an earthquake, you get more of a boom with maybe the windows shaking."

Lindsey, who has worked with geologists conducting research on the booms, also said they could be caused by a phenomenon known as "frost quakes."

"A frost quake happens whenever the temperatures drastically drop within a short period of time and there's water in the soil," Lindsey said. "That sudden drop causes the water to freeze and expand, cracking the rocks underground. Sometimes that can create what people hear as booms."

Anecdotal written records of people hearing similar booming noises immediately before the major 1812 New Madrid earthquake have led some to believe that the booms may be a sign of an impending large quake. The magnitude 2.6 tremor recorded Sunday evening near La Center may only serve to increase some people's fears that a larger event may be near.

Lindsey said there is no real scientific evidence to support such fears.

"If you look at the research done with the giant earthquake in the 1800's at the New Madrid Fault, people claimed that they heard the same things. That's what people are connecting to," Lindsey said. "There have been these reports all over western Kentucky over the past year apparently, but it doesn't mean it's a sign that the big one's coming. You can't predict an earthquake."

Published 04:56 PM, Monday Jan. 27, 2014
Updated 08:13 PM, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014

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