posted on Feb, 9 2003 @ 09:40 AM
In many ways, they're the arctic equivalent of crop circles. Circles, polygons and lines made of stones and soil march across the far North in
disturbingly regular patterns. Their presence has inspired stories of alien messages and Paleolithic artisans.
Now patterned ground researcher Mark Kessler of the University of California at Santa Cruz and geophysicist Bernd Werner of U.C. San Diego have come
up with a more plausible explanation. Eons of freeze-thaw cycles squeeze the rocks to the surface, they say.
The researchers developed a three-dimensional computer model of how soil expands and contracts in response to daily temperature swings. They found
that one process sorts soils into areas of high soil concentration and rocks into areas with more rocks. A second force rearranges the rocks into
The interaction of these two forces plus the steepness of the ground and the composition of the soil results in patterns as different as long lines,
rocky trapezoids, and giant doughnuts. The research was published in the journal Science.
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