Learn how Earth’s rotation causes the Coriolis effect with this video from NOVA Cloud Lab. The spinning of Earth around its axis affects the movement of air and water as they travel across Earth’s surface. Because the planet has a spherical shape, points on the equator move faster than points at the poles. An animated example of a paper airplane thrown from Texas toward the north shows how the airplane would take a curved path to the right. If the airplane were thrown toward the south in the southern hemisphere, it would take a curved path deflected to the left. This illustrates why weather systems, such as hurricanes, typically spin in opposite directions in the northern and southern hemispheres.
To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this video, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.
Visit the Cloud Lab here.