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10.14: Coriolis Force

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Coriolis Force

10.14: Coriolis Force

An accelerating particle experiences a force equal to the mass multiplied by the acceleration in an inertial frame of reference. Consider a particle in a non-inertial frame of reference, such as a sliding ball on a rotating table. The acceleration of the ball in this rotating reference frame is different than in the intertial frame, which modifies its equation of motion. The fictitious forces acting additionally on a rotating frame of reference alter Newton's Second Law expression. Centripetal and Coriolis forces are the fictitious or pseudo forces that act on a particle in a non-inertial frame of reference.

The discovery of the Coriolis force dates back to 1651 when Italian military officers reported that, during artillery practice, the cannon balls always landed to the right of where the calculations predicted. The Coriolis force is named after a French mathematician Gaspard Gustave Coriolis (1792–1843) for his work in the field of rotating reference frames.

The Coriolis force is proportional to the cross-product of the rotating frame's angular velocity vector and the object's velocity vector. Its direction can be estimated using the right-hand rule for the cross-product. Suppose the index finger and thumb are directed toward the object's velocity and the rotating frame's angular velocity, respectively. The middle finger points opposite to the Coriolis force, as indicated by the negative sign in the Coriolis force expression. The work done by Coriolis force is zero since it always acts perpendicular to the object's motion.

Due to the Earth's rotation, the Coriolis force tends to deflect moving bodies toward the right in the northern hemisphere and toward the left in the southern hemisphere. As a result, long-range snipers aim to the left of their target in the northern hemisphere.

The Coriolis force also results in cyclone formation. In the northern hemisphere, air rushing out of a high-pressure system swirls clockwise around the pressure center. Similarly, air flowing into a low-pressure region swirls counterclockwise. The turn direction of the swirling is opposite in the southern hemisphere due to the Coriolis force. The Coriolis force is zero at the equator, and as a result, no cyclones occur at the equatorial axis.

Suggested Reading


Keywords: Coriolis Force Inertial Frame Of Reference Non-inertial Frame Of Reference Centripetal Force Gaspard Gustave Coriolis Cross-product Right-hand Rule Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere Cyclone Formation High-pressure System Low-pressure Region

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