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Name: Sherry
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: IL
Country: N/A
Date: 12/13/2005

Question: How does the Coriolis Effect affect temperature? I have searched many resources and I have found a few places that have mentioned a relation with air pressure, but i have not found anything that has enough detail or really explains any relationship to temperature.

The Coriolis effect (sometimes called the Coriolis "force", which is misleading) is a result of the gravitational attraction of the Earth on the atmosphere. The gravitational attraction of the Earth and the atmosphere is directed from a point in the atmosphere in a radial direction toward the Earth's center of gravity (which essentially is the geographic center of the Earth to a good approximation. The flow of air moves from a region of higher air pressure to an area of low pressure tangential to the surface of the Earth. Because of the direction of rotation of the Earth (in the northern hemisphere) the surface of the Earth "moves out from underneath" the radial gravitational attraction and the tangential air flow from high to low pressure. The net effect is a anti-clockwise circulation about the radial center of the low pressure. This dynamic process requires vector analysis because the Earth's surface and the center of the low pressure area are both changing position as a function of time. The effect of temperature is indirect, because the major contribution of temperature is the change in the atmosphere's density, and consequently the gravitational attraction. The larger effect is the converse -- the change in pressure that results from the rotation of the atmosphere causes a change in temperature due to changing regions of pressure difference. All of this gets more involved when moisture is added to the "mix" of variables because condensation of water vapor into liquid water involves a large release of energy. These effects can produce substantial changes in temperature. So thinking of the process as a "temperature-causing effect" is in a way looking at the effects through the "wrong end of the binoculars". The larger effect is the Coriolis effect resulting in significant changes in temperature, rather than temperature being the driving force.

Vince Calder

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