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Coriolis Effect

Significance Of The Coriolis Effect

The Coriolis effect is important to virtually all sciences that relate to Earth and planetary motions. It is critical to the dynamics of the atmosphere including the motions of winds and storms. In oceanography, it explains the motions of oceanic currents. Ballistics encompasses not only weapons but the motions of aircraft including launching and orbiting spacecraft. In the mechanics of machinery, rotating motors and other electrical devices generate instantaneous voltages (called Christoffel voltages) that must be calculated relative to the rotation. In astronomy, astrophysics, and studies of the dynamics of the stars, the Coriolis effect explains the rotation of sunspots and the true directions of light seen on Earth from the stars.

The Coriolis effect does not have any relationship to two other effects. For many years, geologists have used the Coriolis effect to suggest that right banks of rivers will tend to erode more rapidly than left banks in the Northern Hemisphere; this has been proven not to be true. Also, many people claim water in their sinks and toilet bowls drains away in counterclockwise or clockwise motion depending on whether the drain is located in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. The Coriolis effect acts only on fluids over great distances or long lengths of time, so the motion of draining water is due to the shape of the drain not to the pseudoforce of the Coriolis effect.



Kearns, Graham. "The Great Coriolis Conspiracy." Weatherwise 5, no. 3 (June 1998): 63.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Coriolis Force. [cited 2003]. <http://www.nws.noaa.gov./om/educ/activit/coriolis.htm>

Gillian S. Holmes

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Condensation to CoshCoriolis Effect - Behavior Of Objects Under The Coriolis Effect, History, Significance Of The Coriolis Effect