Which Way To Hurricanes Spin?


By By Steve Pool

SEATTLE - In the Northern Hemisphere, most cyclonic-based storms -- hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, etc. -- spin in the same direction as low pressure systems: counter-clockwise (Although there have been rare occurrences of a tornado spinning clockwise). High pressure systems spin clockwise.

On the other hand, in the Southern Hemisphere, hurricanes and such spin clockwise and high pressure systems go counter-clockwise. That's due to the Coriolis Force -- which is caused by the Earth's rotation. The Earth spins faster at the equator than the poles.

Low pressure is due to areas of rising air, which then start to spin counter-clockwise due to the Coriolis Force. High pressure is tied to sinking air, which the Coriolis Force turns the air clockwise. In tomorrow's column, we'll deal with what happens if a hurricane crosses into the other hemisphere.

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Evening rainbow from Queen Anne using fisheye lens, 17 April 2014
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A large rainbow formed over the ferry Wenatchee while headed from Bainbridge Island to Seattle.