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No. 62: Mar-Apr 1989

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Visual Sightings Of Vortices In Britain

Of late, the cereal fields of Britain have been visited by a phenomenon which flattens the crops in nicely geometric circles, rings, and even patterns of circles. The meteorologists attribute these circles to unseen vortices in the atmos phere; more radical speculators invoke UFOs and mysterious Russian weapons.

Pertinent to the explanation of this phenomenon are recent sightings of vapor vortices in regions where crop circles are common. While no one has yet seen these vortices gouging out circles, these visual manifestations betoken strong circular winds in the proper locations. Here follows a recent account: "Looking across the field of winter wheat to the east..., he suddenly noticed at a distance of 80 metres... what he took to be a large puff of white 'bonfire smoke' rising to 15 feet (5m) maximum height. The outer part of this 'smoke' column was scarcely rotating but the middle part, which was too thick to see through, was spinning rapidly. In a couple of seconds the effect had ended; the spinning central column had gone and the residual 'smoke' or cloud of fog drifted gently in the prevailing light north-east wind towards the southwest and dissolved after going several yards. He used the word smoke out of convenience but said that the effect was more likely caused by water vapour, cloud droplets or fog. He further emphasized the swiftness of the appearance and disappearance of the phenomenon. It had arrived suddenly like 'smoke from a distant cannon' or just as if 'a smoke-filled or fog-filled balloon had suddenly burst.' That is to say, it emerged as if from nowhere. He made the further point that the spinning column might have been very much longer than he could judge, for he realized that the only part he could see was the part rendered visible by the smoke or fog. The diameter of the cloud was about the same as its height, viz 4 or 5 metres."

The same phenomenon appeared again a few seconds later, and still again 5 minutes later. Many crop circles have been found in the fields around Yatesbury.

(Meaden, G.T.; "The Vortices of Vapour Seen near Avebury, Wiltshire, above a Wheatfield on 16 June 1988," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 13:305, 1988. Journal address: 54 Frome Road, Bradfordon-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 1LD, ENGLAND)

Comment. There may be a connection between these visible vortices and the curious wind gust reported SF#61. Even more speculatively, there might be a connection to the strange cloud plumes seen in recent years over the Soviet Union.

From Science Frontiers #62, MAR-APR 1989. 1989-2000 William R. Corliss

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  • "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
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