Thursday, September 4, 2008

Coriolis Force - An artifact of the earth's rotation

Once air has been set in motion by the pressure gradient force, it undergoes an apparent deflection from its path, as seen by an observer on the earth. This apparent deflection is called the "Coriolis force" and is a result of the earth's rotation.
As air moves from high to low pressure in the northern hemisphere, the Coriolis force deflects it to the right. In the southern hemisphere, the Coriolis force deflects air moving from high to low pressure to the left. The amount of deflection the air makes is directly related to both the speed at which the air is moving and its latitude. Therefore, slowly blowing winds will be deflected only a small amount, while stronger winds will be deflected more. Likewise, winds blowing closer to the poles will be deflected more than winds at the same speed closer to the equator. The Coriolis force is zero right at the equator.

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