The Coriolis Effect


The Coriolis effect says that anytime you’re rotating—whether it’s on a playground toy or your home planet—objects moving in straight lines will appear to curve. This bizarre phenomenon affects many things, from the paths of missiles to the formation of hurricanes.

You may have heard that the Coriolis effect makes water in the bathtub spiral down the drain in a certain way, or that it determines the way that a toilet flushes. That’s actually wrong.

Although, as you may have noticed while tracking a hurricane on the news, storms in the Northern Hemisphere spin counterclockwise, while those in the Southern Hemisphere spin clockwise. Why do storms spin in different directions depending on their location? And why do they spin in the first place? The answer is the Coriolis effect.



– Host, Producer: Greg Kestin
– Filming: Greg Kestin
– Research, Writing: Greg Kestin
Samia Bouzid

– Editing, Animating: Samia Bouzid
Greg Kestin

– Editorial Input: Julia Cort, Ari Daniel
– Science consultants: David Holland, Louis Deslauriers, Kerry Emanuel, Daniel Jacob
– Media: Shutterstock, NASA, ESA
– Special thanks: Harvard Lecture Demonstration Group (Daniel Davis, Allen Crockett, Daniel Rosenberg)
– Special thanks: Entire NOVA team
– From the producers of PBS NOVA © WGBH Educational Foundation – Funding provided by FQXi
– Music provided by APM

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