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Originally posted by Terapin
The rocks sit on a slick mud surface. The ice is on TOP of the water. When the ice and wind push the rock, they are ABOVE the mud.
Just like when you drag an anchor across the bottom of the ocean. Did you even look at the video?
The area gets flooded all the time from snow melt in the mountains, as shown in the video. But the flow is so gradual and shallow, it doesn't wash away the existing tracks that can last for years.
Originally posted by DJMessiah
The surface can be slick, but the rock still leaves a deep trail in the mud. Why doesn't the water underneath the ice wash away the trail?
Figuring out how the rocks dance may seem silly, but it's helped researchers understand a type of air pollution that threatens some populated areas of Southern California. Dr. Thomas Cahill, a physicist and atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Davis, calculated that the velocity of the winds moving the rocks at Racetrack Playa has to be around 100 mph. Messina and Clarke's work confirms that finding.
Cahill used that knowledge to measure wind velocities at the surface of Owens Lake (since Racetrack Playa is a designated wilderness area, measuring devices cannot be left on the lake bed). It was an effort that up until that time was considered folly because the popular theory was that steady high winds never hug the ground except in tornadoes or hurricanes. In fact, Cahill measured 95 mph winds just a few centimeters above the surface.
"People don't believe it," he says, "especially in Europe and the East, but I've watched railroad ties be picked up and driven through sand dunes. We've measured the highest wind shears ever recorded."
Moreover, the physics calculations do not fully support this theory as wind speeds of hundreds of miles per hour would be needed to move some of the stones.
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