Featured Science & Tech — 02 December 2015

Why Do Hurricanes Spin in the Northern Hemisphere

Many of you may be aware of this fact that hurricanes take a counter clockwise spin. However, you may be amazed by the fact that these hurricanes only spin in the North of equator of the Earth. While this seems absurd why it only happens in the Northern Hemisphere, there is a valid scientific reason behind the happening. When you watch a hurricane from above it, it seems to be rotating clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere that is opposite to the previous fact. It basically happens because of the rotation of the Earth.

As the Earth rotates, it gives rise to the Coriolis force that further alters the direction of the wind to the right. This is the reason you can observe hurricanes to be spinning counter clockwise while these occur anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Had there been no spin, we would have faced unimaginably horrible winds traveling from tropics to poles and back. Now if you are getting curious to know about the Coriolis force, then let us explain it to you with an example.

Suppose you were driving a car in the straight direction and suddenly took a sharp left turn. Now, you would feel that your body pushed out even though it was only moving forward. However, it was not your body that had pushed out on the car door, but the door that had pushed in on your body. This case is similar to the spinning of hurricanes. The Coriolis force caused you to feel this way. There are numerous situations in which you may experience such force.

When we talk about hurricanes, the force causes a deflection toward the right side. It happens because the air starts moving toward the center of the hurricane where a low-pressure region is formed. While this phenomena is true for the Northern Hemisphere, it is exactly the opposite that happens in the Southern Hemisphere where a high-pressure region is formed at the center and the spin is clockwise. Since we consider the clockwise spin as a normal phenomena, a counter clockwise spin seems strange to us.

Written by Ruchika Pahwa

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Ruchika Pahwa

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