Coriolis effect

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In physics, the Coriolis effect is an apparent deflection of moving objects when they are viewed from a rotating reference frame. In a reference frame with clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the left of the motion of the object; in one with anti-clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the right. The mathematical expression for the Coriolis force appeared in an 1835 paper by a French scientist Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis in connection with the theory of water wheels, and also in the tidal equations of Pierre-Simon Laplace in 1778. Early in the 20th century, the term Coriolis force began to be used in connection with meteorology.

The Coriolis effect is caused by the rotation of the earth and the inertia of the mass experiencing the effect. Newton's laws of motion govern the motion of an object in a (non accelerating) inertial frame of reference. When Newton's laws are transformed to a rotating frame of reference, the Coriolis and centrifugal forces appear. Both forces are proportional to the mass of the object. The Coriolis force is proportional to the rotation rate and the centrifugal force is proportional to its square. The Coriolis force acts in a direction perpendicular to the rotation axis and to the velocity of the body in the rotating frame and is proportional to the object's speed in the rotating frame. The centrifugal force acts outwards in the radial direction and is proportional to the distance of the body from the axis of the rotating frame. These additional forces are termed either inertial forces, fictitious forces or pseudo forces.[1] They allow the application of simple newtonian laws to a rotating system. They are correction factors that do not exist in a true non accelerating "inertial" system.

Perhaps the most commonly encountered rotating reference frame is the Earth. Because the Earth rotates only once per day, the Coriolis force is quite small, and its effects generally become noticeable only for motions occurring over large distances and long periods of time, such as large-scale movement of air in the atmosphere or water in the ocean. Such motions are constrained by the 2-dimensional surface of the earth, so only the horizontal component of the Coriolis force is generally important. This force causes moving objects on the surface of the Earth to appear to veer to the right in the northern hemisphere, and to the left in the southern. Rather than flowing directly from areas of high pressure to low pressure, as they would on a non-rotating planet, winds and currents tend to flow to the right of this direction north of the equator, and to the left of this direction south of the equator. This effect is responsible for the rotation of large cyclones (see Coriolis effects in meteorology).


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