How do winds and storms move if the Sun rises from the East and sets in the West? We have discussed the intensity of storms but never the direction. Let us do it in this article.
Storms travel in both directions, East to West and West to East. The law responsible for explaining this movement is called the Coriolis effect.
Let us look at this in more detail in this article.
The Coriolis Effect
The Coriolis effect happens when air and water move across the Earth’s surface while it’s spinning. It received its name from a French mathematician named Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis, who first described it in the 19th century.
Because the Earth spins on its axis, different parts of the planet move at different speeds, and this causes air and water to curve to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere.
This effect is important because it affects the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean currents and helps determine how storms move around the planet. In the Northern Hemisphere, air rotates counterclockwise around low-pressure systems and clockwise around high-pressure systems, while the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.
Why Do Storms Only Travel West To East In The U.S.?
The storms in the U.S. always travel from West to East due to the Coriolis Effect. The U.S. falls in the Northern Hemisphere, where air rotates counterclockwise in low-pressure systems. A counterclockwise direction is West to East.
Low-pressure areas are the most optimal for storms to form, forming storms that travel west to East. The winds that carry these storms are called the westerly winds or westerlies; these are strong winds that move from the West and storm systems to the East.
The westerlies are particularly strong in the United States because of the shape and orientation of the continent. The Rocky Mountains act as a barrier that redirects the westerly winds to flow more southerly, which helps steer weather systems and storms along a more eastward track.
While storms in the United States generally move from West to East, there can be exceptions to this rule. These occur due to the conditions in which the storm is formed.
As mentioned before, winds will move in a clockwise direction, East to West, when the area has high pressure. Storms under high pressure are an exception to the rule and can sometimes occur in the U.S.
Do Storms Travel East To West?
Yes, they do. This is rare due to the Earth’s shape, movement, and direction. However, as discussed by the Coriolis effect, the regions in the Southern Hemisphere experience winds differently. Winds move clockwise, East to West, in low-pressure regions where storms occur most commonly.
The tropics, particularly in the western Pacific and Indian Ocean, are some regions that experience storms that travel from East to West. In these regions, storms are often driven by the trade winds, which blow from East to west near the equator.
How Is The Direction Of A Storm Assessed?
We know storms can travel in different directions, but how do we know this? Below we have discussed some of the most commonly used methods to assess the direction and strength of different storms.
Radar – Radars are used to assess how strong the storm is and what the direction is.
Satellites – Weather satellites provide a bird’s-eye view of storm systems and can track their movement across large regions. The view shows the storm from a distance but provides enough information to predict the damage it may cause.
Meteorologists float weather balloons to track how storms move. These balloons also measure the storm’s temperature, pressure, wind speed, and direction.
Ground observations – Ground observations are referred to observations made in enclosed rooms using data. This is done at weather stations and provides insight into the storm’s strength. However, sometimes this information can also show the direction that the storm may be taking.
Computer models – Once a storm is forecasted, computer models can help to provide further insight into the movements and direction of the storm. The data that is collected from all the above sources are used to create a visual model which predicts how the storm will behave in the coming time.
What To Do When A Storm Hits?
If you live in an area that is prone to storms, specifically harsher ones like hurricanes, you must take some preventive measures to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Below are some elaborate suggestions you must consider if a storm is forecasted in your area.
After evaluating the security of your building, you must assess whether there is a need to evacuate. It would help if you had the plan to execute as soon as the government gives warning signals.
While evacuating, carry your documents and essential gadgets with you. They might need to be in a good state when you return.
Security Within A Building
If you choose to stay, try moving to a place on a lower floor. The ground floor or basements and houses are preferred. Once in this area, try to shelter in an area with no windows. In an apartment building, you may find a space under a stairwell or in the hallway of the building.
These places are more secure than being out in the open. These are the safest places during a hurricane.
Create a bag that has all the necessary items you need. These include food items, flashlights, water, documents, gadgets, a radio, sanitation supplies, and something for entertainment.
Keep the bag with you wherever you choose to shelter out. Make sure there is ample non-perishable food to last you through the duration of the hurricane.
Nature has no set rules; it works in whichever way it wishes. Some common patterns are seen, but there are always exceptions to the rule. In the case of directions of storms, most storms travel from the West to the East, but some storms deflect from the norm and move from the East to the West.