# Coriolis force

## Apparent force in a rotating reference frame / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In physics, the **Coriolis force** is an inertial (or fictitious) force that acts on objects in motion within a frame of reference that rotates with respect to an inertial frame. In a reference frame with clockwise rotation, the force acts to the left of the motion of the object. In one with anticlockwise (or counterclockwise) rotation, the force acts to the right. Deflection of an object due to the Coriolis force is called the **Coriolis effect**. Though recognized previously by others, the mathematical expression for the Coriolis force appeared in an 1835 paper by French scientist Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis, in connection with the theory of water wheels. Early in the 20th century, the term *Coriolis force* began to be used in connection with meteorology.

Newton's laws of motion describe the motion of an object in an inertial (non-accelerating) frame of reference. When Newton's laws are transformed to a rotating frame of reference, the Coriolis and centrifugal accelerations appear. When applied to objects with masses, the respective forces are proportional to their masses. The magnitude of the Coriolis force is proportional to the rotation rate, and the magnitude of the centrifugal force is proportional to the square of the rotation rate. The Coriolis force acts in a direction perpendicular to two quantities: the angular velocity of the rotating frame relative to the inertial frame and the velocity of the body relative to the rotating frame, and its magnitude is proportional to the object's speed in the rotating frame (more precisely, to the component of its velocity that is perpendicular to the axis of rotation). 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 inertial forces, fictitious forces, or *pseudo forces*. By introducing these fictitious forces to a rotating frame of reference, Newton's laws of motion can be applied to the rotating system as though it were an inertial system; these forces are correction factors that are not required in a non-rotating system.

In popular (non-technical) usage of the term "Coriolis effect", the rotating reference frame implied is almost always the Earth. Because the Earth spins, Earth-bound observers need to account for the Coriolis force to correctly analyze the motion of objects. The Earth completes one rotation for each day/night cycle, so for motions of everyday objects the Coriolis force is imperceptible; its effects 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; or where high precision is important, such as artillery or missile trajectories. Such motions are constrained by the 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 be deflected to the right (with respect to the direction of travel) in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. The horizontal deflection effect is greater near the poles, since the effective rotation rate about a local vertical axis is largest there, and decreases to zero at the equator. Rather than flowing directly from areas of high pressure to low pressure, as they would in a non-rotating system, winds and currents tend to flow to the right of this direction north of the equator ("clockwise") and to the left of this direction south of it ("anticlockwise"). This effect is responsible for the rotation and thus formation of cyclones (see Coriolis effects in meteorology).