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No. 60: Nov-Dec 1988

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Spiral-circle ground patterns in field crops

G.T. Meaden has recently summarized his research into those marvelously sharp and complex designs cut into English field crops by atmospheric vortices. (Why other countries are not similarly affected is unknown.) The simple circles range from 3 to 30 meters in diameter. The central, flattened vegetation is crushed clockwise about half the time, counterclockwise in the other cases. On two known occasions, the flattening process has actually been observed. The invisible atmospheric vor tex does its work in 30 seconds or less and generates a high-pitched humming sound.

The complex nature of these vortices is attested to by the rare ringed circles and multiple patterns. Both single- and double-ringed circles are known. The wind direction always alternates from central circle to first ring to second ring. The most common multiple patterns consist of large central circles flanked by two or four, smaller satellite circles, all nicely spaced. In the quintuplets, all five circles are usually flattened clockwise, but one case has presented theorists with four counterclockwise circles accompanied by a single improbable clockwise circle!

(Meaden, G.T.; "The Mystery of Spiral-Circle Ground Patterns in Crops Made by a Natural Atmospheric-Vortex Phenomenon," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 13:203, 1988.)

Quintuplet pattern in barley crop Quintuplet pattern in barley crop, west Wiltshire, 1987

From Science Frontiers #60, NOV-DEC 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss