Coriolis Force and Other Moving Things

    Weather systems aren't the only things that travel through the air at speeds and over timescales where the Coriolis effect is relevant.


    While aircraft aren't usually aloft for days at a time, they also tend to travel a lot more quickly than even the fastest hurricane winds. Longer trips need to compensate for changes in latitude or situations where the aircraft outraces the Earth (ever land in a new timezone and find your arrival time was before your departure time?). I'm told that pilots need to factor Coriolis in when traveling long distances, although most of that is automated these days...only hobby small craft pilots have to worry about it by hand.
    Of course, aircraft also happen to travel in weather patterns too, so they indirectly deal with the Coriolis force as the air they're moving through gets deflected!


    You want fast? An orbiting space shuttle goes around the planet in about 90 minutes, sixteen times faster than the ground itself does. In this case, in fact, the difference in reference frames is so severe that the Coriolis force "goes away", because there's not even a trace of the illusion that the shuttle is in the same frame as the Earth.
    However, higher-orbiting satellites may only go around the planet a little faster than once a day, and that can result in some odd deflection effects. Fortunately, anyone with the technology to put something in orbit already knows how to deal with Coriolis effects as well.


    While they rarely travel more than a few miles, shells from the most powerful guns travel very quickly, and when a few meters difference can spell the difference between hitting an enemy ship and hitting water, you need to account for every possible factor. However, the sources I checked are in some disagreement about whether the Coriolis effect is significant enough to worry about...some claim the Magnus effect (caused by the shell's own spin) is much bigger, but others say you still need to consider Coriolis.
    Obviously, our mecha on Planet Naismith in the globe examples need to consider the Coriolis effect, but they're dealing with much firing over the equivalent of thousands of miles on Earth. The size of a typical naval engagement would be smaller, to scale, than a single bump on that planet's surface.

Back to the Main Coriolis force Page.