Coriolis Effect

Coriolis Effect explains the pattern of deflection preferred by objects not firmly connected to the ground as they travel long distances around the Earth. The Coriolis Effect is responsible for many large-scale weather patterns. The effect was described by French engineer-mathematician Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis in 1835.

What is the Coriolis Effect?

The Coriolis Effect is an apparent effect produced by a rotating frame of reference. The effect occurs when an object moving along a straight path is viewed from a non-fixed frame of reference. The moving frame of reference is the Earth which rotates at a fixed speed. When an object moving in a straight path is viewed from Earth, the object appears to lose its course because of the rotation of the Earth.

Demonstration of Coriolis Effect

The key to the Coriolis Effect lies in Earth’s rotation. The earth rotates faster at the equator than it does at the poles. Earth being wider at the equator, the equatorial regions race nearly 1,600 kilometers per hour. At the poles, the earth rotates at a rate of 0.00008 kilometers per hour.

Let us pretend to be standing at the equator, and we throw a ball to our friend standing in the middle of North America. If the ball was thrown in a straight line, it would appear to land to the right of our friend because he is moving at a slower rate and has not caught up.

Now let us assume to be standing at the North Pole. When you throw the ball to your friend again, it will appear to land to his right. This time it is because he is moving faster than you and has moved ahead of the ball.

This apparent deflection is the Coriolis Effect. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Coriolis Effect behaves the opposite way, where the ball would appear to bend to the left.

Here is a video demonstrating the Coriolis Effect

Learn to derive the equation used to calculate the Coriolis force from the link given below:

How are weather patterns affected by the Coriolis Effect?

The development of weather patterns, such as cyclones and trade winds, are examples of the impact of the Coriolis Effect.

In the Northern Hemisphere, fluids from high-pressure systems pass low-pressure systems to their right. As air masses are pulled into cyclones from all directions, they are deflected, and the storm system, a hurricane, seems to rotate counter-clockwise.

In the Southern Hemisphere, currents are deflected to the left. As a result, storm systems seem to rotate clockwise.

The wind patterns around the globe are also impacted by the Coriolis Effect.

To learn more about pressure systems, click on the link given below:

Coriolis Effect on Airplanes

Fast-moving objects that are impacted by weather, such as airplanes and rockets, are influenced by the Coriolis Effect. The direction of the prevailing winds is largely determined by the Coriolis Effect, hence a pilot must take this into account while charting routes for long-distance travel.

Did you know?
The Coriolis force is strongest at the poles and absents at the equator. Cyclones need Coriolis force in order to circulate. Hence, hurricanes never occur in equatorial regions and never cross the Equator.


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