Science Facts

Coriolis Effect On Wind – Definition, Equation & Diagram

Coriolis Effect

The Coriolis effect was named for 19th-century mathematician Gustave Coriolis. It is about the objects traveling across the face of the earth due to this constant eastward rotation. If you tried to throw a baseball from the equator up to your friend standing at the North Pole, your ball would appear to veer to the right. Because it would maintain the greater momentum of the place it started from.

On the other hand, if you were throwing the ball to the South Pole from the equator, the ball would appear to veer to the left for the same reason. So although the Coriolis effect is a thing, applying this principle to draining water in Earth’s two hemispheres is just bunk.

Coriolis effect does, however, influence bigger slower moving fluids global air and ocean currents, for instance, which can end up giving hurricanes their spin. If there didn’t rotate on its axis among many unpleasant things, that would be different. It would be that winds wouldn’t blow either west or east.

They’d flow from the poles, which are naturally high-pressure areas, to the equator where there’s low pressure and back again. The Coriolis effect deflects these winds from the right in the northern hemisphere to the left in the southern hemisphere. It creates weather systems that rotate clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the south. Coriolis effect working at that scale does affect entire climate patterns.

What is the Coriolis effect?

The Coriolis effect happens when a mass moving in a rotating system experiences a Coriolis force. It acts perpendicular to the direction of the motion and the axis of rotation on earth. The effect tends to deflect moving objects to delight the northern and the left in this southern hemisphere.

Coriolis force is experienced due to the rotation of the earth on its axis. And this force is experienced by living and non-living organisms on the planet, air mass, floating clouds in the atmosphere. Coriolis force is minimal compared to the other daily occurrence forces and can only be noticed for large bodies’ large displacements.

The winds in the temperate region going from the subtropical belt towards the poles are the westerlies. Similarly, the temperate region has westerlies in the southern hemisphere, whereas there are the southeasterly trade winds in the subtropical zone.

Coriolis effect on wind

Coriolis effect does create hurricanes and is why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is spinning the way it is. So, what is the Coriolis effect? Well, it’s what happens when objects moving in a straight line appear to curve because of rotating. And it affects all kinds of things. It bends the paths of missiles and sniper shots. But how does it work, and how does it create hurricanes?

You’ve probably noticed that big storms spin over time. As they travel in the northern hemisphere, they spend counterclockwise. But if you are watching a storm in the southern hemisphere, you’d see it spinning clockwise. Why do storms spin in different directions? It depends on their location and the effect of the Coriolis. It is a phenomenon that causes fluids (water and air) to curve. As they travel across or above Earth’s surface, here’s the basic idea.

Earth is constantly spinning around its axis from west to east. Earth is a sphere and wider in the middle. So points on the equator are spinning faster around the axis than points near the poles. Imagine you were standing in Texas and had a magic paper airplane that could travel hundreds of miles. If you threw your airplane directly northward, you might think it would land straight north, maybe somewhere in Nebraska.

But Texas is spinning around Earth’s axis faster than Nebraska is because it’s closer to the equator. It means that the paper airplane is spinning faster as well. And when you throw it, that spinning momentum is conserved. So if you throw your paper airplane in a straight line toward the North, it would land somewhere to Nebraska’s right, maybe in Delaware.

From your perspective in Texas, the plane would have taken a curved path to the right. The opposite would happen in the southern hemisphere. An object traveling from the equator to the South would get deflected to the left. So what does this have to do with hurricane spinning? At the center of every hurricane is an area of very low pressure.

As a result, the high-pressure air surrounding the center or eye of a storm is constantly rushing toward the low-pressure void in the middle. But because of the Coriolis effect, the air rushing toward the center is deflected.

In the northern hemisphere, the air volumes on all sides keep getting tugged slightly to the right. The air keeps trying to make its way to the middle and keeps getting deflected, causing the entire system to spin in a counterclockwise direction. In the southern hemisphere, where the Coriolis effect pulls air to the left, the opposite happens. Storms wind spin around the eye in a clockwise manner.

Coriolis effect diagram
Coriolis effect diagram

On this diagram here, we’ve got a high-pressure system and a low-pressure system. We would assume that the wind would want to go from the high-pressure system to the low-pressure one. The motion causes that wind to curve to the right, at least in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, it’ll curve to the left with that little cooper to the right. The wind appears to curve due to the earth’s rotation. That’s why this curve happens. The wind is going to move towards the greater the equator tends to be a lower pressure area.

Coriolis equation: The Coriolis acceleration forms Coriolis force. Suppose someone inside the rotating non-inertial frame, causing the Coriolis force is known as the Coriolis acceleration. This equation gives it:

Coriolis acceleration = 2ωv, Where ω is angular velocity & v is the perpendicular velocity for the rotation axis.

Also, the Coriolis force is a fictitious force that exists and acts on objects inside non-inertial reference frames.

Coriolis effect refers to the way the Earth’s constant eastward rotation. The diameter of the earth of the Equator at 40,076 kilometers. It is so much greater than it is at the poles at zero kilometers. The Equator’s land is moving lots faster than the land everywhere else, about 1638 km/h at the equator compared to about half that at 60 degrees north latitude and pretty much stationary at the poles.


Robert Ehrlich. Turning the World Inside Out and 174 Other Simple Physics Demonstrations. Princeton University Press.
Durran, D. R. Is the Coriolis force really responsible for the inertial oscillation? Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
Marion, Jerry B. Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems, Academic Press.

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