Motion on Surface of the Earth: Coriolis Force

A projectile is launched along the axis at a fixed latitude on the surface of the Earth. The projectile experiences the effect of the Coriolis force, which is a fictitious force observed in a rotating reference frame (blue curve), deflecting the trajectory clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere, with respect to an inertial frame (red curve). This effect is important for oceanic currents, prevailing winds, hurricanes, and so on.


  • [Snapshot]
  • [Snapshot]
  • [Snapshot]


Newton's second law in a rotating coordinate system is
where the terms on the right-hand side are the transverse force (proportional to the angular velocity), the Coriolis force, and the centripetal force. The equations for the components are
It can be shown that a solution (taking and ) is
Neglecting terms in , the solutions are
See R. L. Zimmerman and F. I. Olness, Mathematica For Physics, 2nd ed., Reading, MA: Addison–Wesley, 2002.
    • Share:

Embed Interactive Demonstration New!

Just copy and paste this snippet of JavaScript code into your website or blog to put the live Demonstration on your site. More details »

Files require Wolfram CDF Player or Mathematica.