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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

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987