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. It started because it would maintain the greater momentum of the place.

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 bunk.

The Coriolis effect does, however, influence slower, moving fluids, global air, and ocean currents, which can give hurricanes their spin. It would be different if it didn’t rotate on its axis, among many unpleasant things. It would be that winds wouldn’t blow either west or east.

They’d flow from the poles, 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.

Embark on a journey to understand the invisible force that curves the path of the wind, steering the weather patterns that shape our world: the Coriolis effect. Due to Earth’s rotation, this phenomenon plays a crucial role in meteorology, influencing everything from the gentlest breezes to the most powerful storms.

What is the Coriolis Effect?

In geography, the Coriolis effect refers to the deflection of moving air and water masses caused by the Earth’s rotation. It is a phenomenon that affects the movement of fluids (such as air and ocean currents) and objects (like projectiles) on the rotating Earth.

The Coriolis effect happens when a mass moving in a rotating system experiences a Coriolis force. It acts perpendicular to the direction of 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 Effect
Coriolis Effect

Coriolis force is experienced due to the earth’s rotation on its axis. This force is experienced by living and non-living organisms on the planet, air mass, and 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 westerlies are the winds in the temperate region going from the subtropical belt toward the poles. Similarly, the temperate region has westerlies in the southern hemisphere, whereas the southeasterly trade winds are in the subtropical zone.

Coriolis effect on wind

The Coriolis effect is an important phenomenon influencing wind movement on the Earth’s surface. Here’s how the Coriolis effect impacts wind:

Deflection of Wind: The Coriolis effect causes the wind to be deflected or curved as it moves horizontally across the Earth’s surface. In the Northern Hemisphere, the deflection is to the right, while in the Southern Hemisphere, it is to the left. This deflection occurs due to the Earth’s rotation beneath the moving air mass.

Effect of Rotation Speed: The degree of deflection caused by the Coriolis effect depends on the speed of rotation of the Earth and the speed of the moving air mass. The faster the Earth rotates or the greater the wind speed, the greater the deflection.

Impact on Wind Patterns: The Coriolis effect plays a significant role in shaping global wind patterns. It influences the formation and behavior of large-scale wind systems, such as trade winds, prevailing westerlies, and polar easterlies. These global wind patterns are critical for weather systems and climate dynamics.

Formation of Cyclones and Anticyclones: The Coriolis effect is instrumental in the formation and rotation of cyclones and anticyclones. Cyclones, such as hurricanes and typhoons, rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Anticyclones, on the other hand, rotate in the opposite direction. The Coriolis effect helps initiate and sustain the rotational motion of these weather systems.

Influence on Local Wind Patterns: The Coriolis effect also affects local wind patterns, such as coastal winds, sea breezes, and land breezes. It can cause winds to bend along coastlines and contribute to the development of localized wind circulations.

The Coriolis effect creates hurricanes, which is why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is spinning the way it is. So, what is the Coriolis effect? It happens when objects moving in a straight line appear to curve because of rotation. Also, 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 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 on the Coriolis. It is a phenomenon that causes fluids (water and air) to curve. Here’s the basic idea as they travel across or above Earth’s surface.

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 spin faster around the axis than points near the poles. Imagine you were standing in Texas with 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. 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, the plane would have taken a curved path to the right in Texas. 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 constantly rushes 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 reach the middle and is deflected, causing the entire system to spin counterclockwise. The opposite happens in the southern hemisphere, where the Coriolis effect pulls air to the left. Stormwind spins around the eye in a clockwise manner.

Coriolis effect diagram
Coriolis effect diagram

We’ve got a high-pressure system and a low-pressure system on this diagram. We would assume that the wind would go from the high-pressure system to the low-pressure one. The motion causes the wind to curve to the right, at least in the northern hemisphere.

It’ll curve to the left in the southern hemisphere 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 will move toward the greater equator and tends to be a lower-pressure area.

Coriolis equation: The Coriolis acceleration forms Coriolis force. Suppose someone inside the rotating non-inertial frame causes the Coriolis force, 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.

The Coriolis effect refers to the way the Earth’s constant eastward rotation. The diameter of the earth of the Equator is 40,076 kilometers. It is so much greater than at the poles at zero kilometers. The Equator’s land is moving much 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.

The Coriolis force is zero at the equator because it results from the Earth’s rotation, and at the equator, the rotational velocity is at its maximum. As you move away from the equator toward the poles, the Coriolis force increases because the rotational velocity decreases, causing the deflection of moving objects to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and the left in the Southern Hemisphere. At the equator, there is no deflection because the rotational velocity is uniform along the circumference of the Earth.

This invisible force choreographs the atmospheric dance, reminding us of the complexity and interconnectedness of Earth’s systems. Understanding it is key to unlocking the mysteries of weather patterns and their global impacts.

Read more similar topics:

What Is The Orographic Effect?

What Is Rain Shadow Effect?


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

Julia Rose

My name is Julia Rose. I'm a registered clinical therapist, researcher, and coach. I'm the author of this blog. There are also two authors: Dr. Monica Ciagne, a registered psychologist and motivational coach, and Douglas Jones, a university lecturer & science researcher.I would love to hear your opinion, question, suggestions, please let me know. We will try to help you.

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