The Coriolis Effect and Geostrophic Motion

Compact explanation of Coriolis forces and rotating frames. Comments are well-done, too. What is not indicated or conveyed is why geostrophic flow causes fluid flow in rotating frames to have structure rather than diffuse uniformly. And, ironically, this “sorting out” produces “emergent structure” where students might expect there to be more chaos.

The Science of Doom

The coriolis effect isn’t the easiest thing to get your head around, but it is an essential element in understanding the large scale motions of the atmosphere and the oceans.

If you roll a ball along a flat frictionless surface it keeps going in the same direction. This is because objects that have no forces on them continue in the same direction at the same speed. (The combination of direction and speed is known as velocity, which is a vector. A vector consists of a magnitude (e.g. speed) and a direction).

Well, that statement was not strictly true – because it wasn’t specific enough.

If you get onto a merry go round and launch your same ball in one direction you observe it move away in a curved arc. But someone above the merry go round, perhaps someone who had climbed up a pole and was looking down…

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About ecoquant

See Retired data scientist and statistician. Now working projects in quantitative ecology and, specifically, phenology of Bryophyta and technical methods for their study.
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