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Desert Diary
Climate/Coriolis Force


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Do you know that different parts of the earth rotate at different speeds? At the equator, everything is traveling over 1000 mph, covering 24,902 miles to return to its starting point 24 hours later. The farther from the equator you go, the slower the speed until, at the poles, the land merely rotates in place once every 24 hours.

What about something not hitched down, like the wind? This starts out moving with about the same speed as the land below. However, air moving to the north or south will be passing over lands traveling faster or slower than it, and in the northern hemisphere, will—as seen from above—seem to curve to its right in relation to the ground. In the southern hemisphere, it will seem to curve to its left.

This effect of the earth's rotation on moving air makes up much of the Coriolis Force that is responsible for the swirling winds around high and low pressure systems, shaping the very nature of our weather.
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Listen to the Audio as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a production of KTEP, National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.