Q:

What causes the Coriolis effect?

A:

Quick Answer

The Coriolis effect is caused by a combination of the inertia of moving air and the rotation of the Earth. Air tends to move from high pressure to low pressure in a straight line, but the rotation of the Earth means that, to an observer at one spot on its surface, the moving air appears to turn. This effect increases as the air moves faster.

Continue Reading
What causes the Coriolis effect?
Credit: John Lund Blend Images Getty Images

Full Answer

The Coriolis effect is an observer effect. It is akin to a passenger on a moving train watching another person standing still outside the train. The person outside the train appears to be moving. In the same way, air currents appear to be moving off to one side of their original path under the Coriolis effect, but it is actually the observer that moves. In this case, the rotating Earth is like the moving train, carrying the observer along. Air is not affected as strongly, so it appears to change direction. The directional change is always toward the west.

The Coriolis effect is most evident in air moving directly north or south. It not only affects the air but also any projectile traveling through the air. For instance, a ballistic shell fired directly southward from the North Pole will land somewhat west of a target placed due south.

Learn more about Our Sun

Related Questions

  • Q:

    Why do we have day and night on earth?

    A:

    Day and night on Earth are caused by the planet's rotation around its axis and its position relative to the Sun. The Earth rotates from west to east, so places further east experience daybreak and nightfall sooner. One hemisphere of Earth is in daylight at any given time.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Why does the sun appear to move across the sky?

    A:

    Relative to its planets, the sun is actually a stationary body, but it appears to move due to Earth's rotation. However, it is important to recognize that nothing is ever truly stationary.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How do sunspots affect the Earth?

    A:

    Sunspots do not have any effect on the Earth in any significant way. If the sun was covered in sunspots, it could result in less light reaching Earth, but not enough to have any negative effect or even be noticed. However, magnetic anomalies associated with sunspots such as solar prominences, solar flares and coronal mass injections can eject energy particles that may affect power plants on Earth or satellites in orbit above Earth.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is the Coriolis parameter?

    A:

    The Coriolis parameter is a postulate that explains the forces acting on objects, such as a fixed volume of air, as it moves through the atmosphere of a spinning Earth. The equation describing it takes into account the rotation of the Earth, latitude of the object and its altitude.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore