Thursday, September 9, 2004
A heartfelt prayer of sympathy and support goes out to all the victims of Hurricane Frances. If you watched any news coverage over this past weekend, then you witnessed one of the most destructive forces of Nature to be unleashed on the North American continent. Although it's all too surprising, and can be credited to Coriolis force.
The Coriolis force is a force caused by the sheer rotation of the earth and affects directional patterns of large weather systems. It is this same force that is believed to affect the directional swirl of water in sinks and toilets [which is shown not to be true]. Because of the earth's rotation, hurricanes and cyclones in the Northern Hemisphere rotate in a counterclockwise direction (such as Hurricane Frances), while those in the Southern Hemisphere rotate clockwise.
So what happens to a hurricane when it moves from one hemisphere to another? Nothing, according to information I've been reading, because hurricanes don't leave their hemisphere of origin - in fact, they don't even form within five degrees of the equator, because the Coriolis forces at the equator are too weak to allow it to happen.
Defying the laws of Nature, if hurricanes and cyclones in general rotated in a clockwise direction, Hurricane Frances may have simply hovered in the mid-Atlantic or simply brought rain to the Atlantic seacoast before heading out to the Atlantic.
Unfortunately, that is not the way of this world. Tragedy or triumph, that's the way the world turns.
Post Note: At the time of this writing, Hurricane Frances has moved in the Gulf of Mexico and heading inland again, while Hurrican Ivan (in the Northern Hemisphere) is gaining force and heading toward the Bahamas... the Coriolis force in effect again.
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