Coriolis Effect

What Is the Coriolis Effect?

There are numerous forces in play atop and beyond the earth’s surface. Some of them, such as gravity, are incredibly popular. When you throw an object in the air and it falls, it feels that much better to know that there is an unseen forest that is responsible for this.

That’s why the experience of seeing what the lack of gravity in space looks like is so amusing. The Coriolis force is another such interesting phenomenon. You can find all the useful information you would ever want to know about its effect below.

Why not share this article with your friends to help them understand just what the Coriolis effect is? They are likely going to be endlessly appreciative of you for it.

Coriolis Effect Definition: What Is the Coriolis Effect?

The Coriolis effect lies at the center of many large-scale weather patterns that you may think of as just another coincidence. Some objects are not firmly connected to the ground, and their journey is one of the simplest ways of understanding how it works.

It’s the pattern of deflection taken by these objects that this term refers to. The deflection here comes from the earth’s rotation, which impacts wind direction. You find that the wind is deflected to the left in the southern hemisphere and the right in the northern hemisphere.

If you’ve ever wondered why or even noticed that the low and high-pressure systems in each hemisphere have a wind flow that goes in opposite directions, the Coriolis force is responsible for that.

You have Giovanni Battista Riccoli and Francesco Maria Grimaldi to thank for the foundational introduction of this concept which they first brought to the world in 1654. Others, such as Claude François Milliet Dechales and Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis would build on the concept in getting the world the understanding it has today.

How Does the Coriolis Effect Come into Action?

As indicated above, the way the wind’s deflection works is a prime demonstration of the Coriolis force in action.

Here is another example that you’ve probably seen before and did not give much thought to. Imagine someone is standing in the center of a spinning carousel. for this example, you want to imagine that the rotation is happening in an anti-clockwise direction.

If you are the person throwing the ball, it’s going to appear to travel in a straight line. That is always going to be the case for anyone who is on the carousel. However, for those who are not on the carousel, though the ball is traveling in a straight line, it is going to appear to curve right.

The Coriolis effect has a tremendous part to play in global wind patterns. for example, it is the reason why the UK has prevailing south-westerlies. In this instance, winds that go from subtropical highs get deflected to the right on their way to the low-pressure area in the north.

If you were to strip the effect of this force from wind patterns, air would straight flow from high-pressure areas to low-pressure ones. Of course, that’s not the case, and the current situation is that winds blow clockwise around high pressure and anti-clockwise around low pressure in the northern hemisphere. The reverse happens on the southern side.

Appearance and Characteristics of Coriolis Effect

The way how the Coriolis effect impacts oceans and the atmosphere is possibly the most important occurrence of them all. Top-level ocean currents are influenced by the way that the wind moves over the surface of the water.

It stands to reason then that the force would also affect the way ocean currents move and even the formation and progression of cyclones. You find that gyres, which are warm high-pressure areas, sit at the center of the circulation off many air currents.

The circulation at the gyres may not be as significant as that in the air, but the Coriolis effect is responsible for the spiraling pattern that you see. It is this spiraling pattern that creates the form that a hurricane takes on.

Effects of Coriolis Effect on:

Human Activities

Fast-moving objects that do not have a direct connection to the ground find themselves impacted by the Coriolis effect too. The example used above was a ball, but you may be surprised to know that much bigger objects find themselves in the mix too.

For example, planes and rockets fall into this category. Prevailing winds are a big part of mastering flight in any airborne vehicle. Therefore, pilots tend to observe and factor them in when making certain decisions, such as choosing long-distance flight paths.

Military snipers and even archers must concern themselves with the Coriolis effect too if they are supposed to accurately hit their targets.

As far as archers are concerned, you may find that they sometimes aim off-center to hit the mark, as they are accounting for the effect that the earth’s rotation may have, causing the arrow to land centimeters away from where it was aimed.

Snipers, on the other hand, don’t have to make such drastic adjustments, but they do need to be mindful of the force too, as even centimeters of deflection could cause them to hit unintended targets.

Other Planets

The strength and impact of the Coriolis force are closely related to the speed of a planet’s rotation. Earth has a slow one compared to other planets, which makes it hard to see the effect of the force less pronounced over short distances at slow speeds.

Take Jupiter, for example. It’s the fastest rotating planet in the solar system. The power generated by the Coriolis effect manages to transform north South wins into east West variations, some of which travel at nearly 400 miles per hour.

Facts about the Coriolis Effect

Take note of the following Coriolis effect facts:

  • You cannot observe it by watching the swimming pool or toilet drain, as this is controlled by manufacturer design and external forces.
  • An object’s mass and rate of rotation come together to determine the effect of the Coriolis force on it
  • The force boils down to the ground and air moving at different speeds, and there is nothing physical involved.
  • The Coriolis force is strongest near the poles and non-existent at the equator.


That’s just about all there is to know about this rotational force. Why not share this information with your friends and go test it out I thought my merry-go-round together?

share on:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Get more with


Take the weather with you

By QR code

Scan the QR and install

App QR Download