The Coriolis Effect

Atmospheric currents are influenced by Earth's rotation. Earth's rotation results in the Coriolis Effect, which causes objects to move in a curved path rather than a straight line. Atmospheric currents are deflected to the right in the northern hemisphere, and to the left in the southern hemisphere (as seen in the video below).

The Coriolis Effect works in combination with the heating imbalances set up by the uneven solar energy distribution to establish global wind systems. If there was no Coriolis Effect, wind movements would form two simple convection currents. As colder, denser, polar air sinks it would flow towards the equator where it would warm, become less dense, and rise. As it flowed back towards the poles, it would again cool and sink, setting up the continuous convection cell movement.

Earth's global winds, created by solar radiation imbalances & the Coriolis Effect, are responsible for circulating heat around the planet. They transport warmer air from the tropics to the polar regions, and move cold air towards the warmer areas near the equator. The next page describes the three major global wind systems: the polar easterlies, prevailing westerlies, and trade winds.

Last modified: Thursday, 11 November 2010, 11:50 AM