Why Do Hurricanes Spin Counterclockwise?

If you ever looked at an image of a hurricane, chances are you’ve noticed that it spins. But have you ever wondered why do they always spin counterclockwise and not clockwise?

Let’s find out.


Part of the reason is location. Hurricanes are tropical storms that form in the Northern hemisphere. Storms in the Southern hemisphere (like cyclones) rotate clockwise and it all has to do with something called the Coriolis effect. (the article continues after the ad)

The Coriolis effect is a result of Earth’s rotation which is based on the fact that the area around the equator rotates faster than the poles. This causes water and air to curve as they move North or South. In the Northern hemisphere air moving north curves east and air moving south curves west and this motion affects wind flow as a hurricane forms. Hurricanes grow out of a central region of low air pressure. The low air pressure attracts high air pressure from outside. As the outside air flows towards the center, the Coriolis effect curves it into a counterclockwise rotation.

The result is the exact opposite in the Southern hemisphere and that’s why hurricanes spin clockwise there.

But what about at the equator?

Well, as it turns out, tropical storms don’t come to within 5° latitude of the equator. They will likely never cross the equator either and that’s because winds push storms away from the equator. So, if you’re looking for a safe place during hurricane season, look no farther than a nice spot along the equator!

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Why Do Hurricanes Have Female Names? 

Photo: NOAA
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Here’s why hurricanes spin counterclockwise in the North | Here’s why all hurricanes, like Irma and Harvey, spin counterclockwise

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