Coriolis effect

Coriolis effect kôr˝ē-ō´lĭs [key] [for G.-G. de Coriolis, a French mathematician], tendency for any moving body on or above the earth's surface, e.g., an ocean current or an artillery round, to drift sideways from its course because of the earth's rotation. In the Northern Hemisphere the deflection is to the right of the motion in the Southern Hemisphere it is to the left. The Coriolis deflection of a body moving toward the north or south results from the fact that the earth's surface is rotating eastward at greater speed near the equator than near the poles, since a point on the equator traces out a larger circle per day than a point on another latitude nearer either pole. A body traveling toward the equator with the slower rotational speed of higher latitudes tends to fall behind or veer to the west relative to the more rapidly rotating earth below it at lower latitudes. Similarly, a body traveling toward either pole veers eastward because it retains the greater eastward rotational speed of the lower latitudes as it passes over the more slowly rotating earth closer to the pole. It is extremely important to account for the Coriolis effect when considering projectile trajectories, terrestrial wind systems, and ocean currents.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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