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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.

Newton's laws of motion govern the motion of an object in an inertial frame of reference. When transforming Newton's laws to a rotating frame of reference, the Coriolis force appears, along with the centrifugal force. If the rotation speed of the frame is not constant, the Euler force will also appear. All three forces are proportional to the mass of the object. The Coriolis force is proportional to the speed of rotation 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.


An image of a whirlpool in the baltic sea going in what is obviously a clockwise direction.

These three additional forces are termed either inertial forces, fictitious forces or pseudo forces. These names are used in a technical sense, to mean simply that these forces vanish in an inertial frame of reference.

The mathematical expression for the Coriolis force appeared in an 1835 paper by a French scientist Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis in connection with hydrodynamics, 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.

Perhaps the most commonly encountered rotating reference frame is the Earth. Moving objects on the surface of the Earth experience a Coriolis force, and appear to veer to the right in the northern hemisphere, and to the left in the southern. Exactly on the equator, motion east or west, remains (precariously) along the line of the equator. Initial motion of a pendulum in any other direction will lead to a motion in a loop. Movements of air in the atmosphere and water in the ocean are notable examples of this behavior: 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).




Length scales and the Rossby number

Applied to Earth

Rotating sphere

The Sun and distant stars


Flow around a low-pressure area

Inertial circles

Other terrestrial effects

Eötvös effect

Draining in bathtubs and toilets

Ballistic missiles and satellites

Special cases

Cannon on turntable

Tossed ball on a rotating carousel

Bounced ball

Visualization of the Coriolis effect

Coriolis effects in other areas

Coriolis flow meter

Molecular physics

Insect flight

See also


Further reading: physics and meteorology

Further reading: historical

External links

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