Planetary Rotation 1: Atmospheric Corotation

Atmospheric Corotation is one of those “dark corners” of science where mainstream scientists “fear to tread”. Physics and the Earth sciences seem to [currently] avoid the subject “like the plague”.

Generally, atmospheric corotation is relegated to the fringes of Astronomy and Astrophysics:

Corotation – Joint rotation of the atmosphere and a planet.

Atmospheric corotation is a very real, everyday phenomenon.

Atmospheric corotation is probably the most [unknowingly] talked about subject on Earth because local variations in atmospheric corotation drive weather systems around the globe.

The spheroid Earth rotates around its axis every day and this causes the surface of the Earth to rotate at a speed of 1,674.4 kilometres per hour at the equator.

However, we do not experience wind speeds of 1,674.4 kilometres per hour at the equator because the atmosphere of the Earth [basically] corotates with the planet.

The corotation of the Earth’s atmosphere extends into the plasmasphere and it is generally agreed that the corotation eventually breaks down at the plasmapause.

Corotation cannot extend to arbitrarily large distances from the planet but must ultimately break down as the result either of external forces or of the inertia of the corotating plasma itself. In the case of earth’s magnetosphere, external stresses imposed by the solar wind impede corotation beyond the plasmapause at about 5 earth radii distance [e.g., Brice, 1967].

Inertial Limit on Corotation – T. W. Hill
Space Physics and Astronomy Department, Rice University, Houston, Texas
Journal of Geophysical Research – 1979

Click to access Hill%2079%20Inert%20lim%20corot%20JA084iA11p06554.pdf

Atmospheric Corotation
Adapted from: N M Brice, Bulk motion of the magnetosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research – 1967

The mainstream scientific literature states [very directly and very boldly] that the rotating surface of a planet drives the corotation of the atmosphere.

In a first step, the planetary rotation is transmitted to the neutral atmosphere through viscous stresses.

Basics of Rotating Magnetospheres: Equilibrium and Stability – K. M. FERRIÈRE
Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, 14 avenue E. Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France
Astrophysics and Space Science – 2001

The role of the atmosphere is to provide a viscous transfer of momentum from the rotating surface of the planet up into the ionosphere, where the plasma is set into corotation by the collisional friction between the ions and the neutral particles (see, for example, Hines [1960]).

Inertial Limit on Corotation – T. W. Hill
Space Physics and Astronomy Department, Rice University, Houston, Texas
Journal of Geophysical Research – 1979

Click to access Hill%2079%20Inert%20lim%20corot%20JA084iA11p06554.pdf

This “first step” is pivotal to our understanding of the Earth and Solar System.

The mainstream literature does not indicate this “first step” is an assumption.
The mainstream literature does not support this “first step” by reference to a paper.
The mainstream literature does not support this “first step” with direct evidence.

The mainstream literature simply takes this “first step” as an established “fact”.

Therefore, let’s examine this “fact” to see if it can withstand serious scrutiny.

The “viscous transfer of momentum” from a planet’s surface into the atmosphere depends upon the viscosity of the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, for the mainstream, the viscosity of the Earth’s atmosphere is very low:

If the viscosity is very high, such as in pitch, the fluid will seem to be a solid in the short term.

Air   [at 15 C]: 1.81 × 10−5 Pa.s

Water [at 25 C]: 8.90 × 10−4 Pa•s

Basically, the Earth’s atmosphere would need to be as thick as pitch to enable the Earth’s surface to transfer sufficient momentum into the atmosphere so that it could corotate with the planet [in the short term].

Additionally, any momentum transferred from the surface into the Earth’s atmosphere has limited potential for upward propagation because the [already low] viscosity of the atmosphere will decrease as the atmospheric temperatures decease with altitude.


If you have enjoyed the cooling “breeze” generated by a rotary fan then you probably know the “breeze” dissipates with distance.

If you have looked at the design of rotary fans and propellers you should understand that a solid sphere is a very inefficient mechanism for transferring momentum.

If you have studied aerodynamics you should appreciate that the momentum of rotating air [wake turbulence] is usually dissipated within a minute.

Airplane vortex

Therefore, the Earth’s surface cannot drive “bottom up” atmospheric corotation.

Evidently, the mainstream avoids drawing this conclusion simply by avoiding the issue altogether. This is hardly surprising because they have no science that explains this phenomenon.

An alternative “electric universe” approach has the potential to provide a “top down” explanation for atmospheric corotation because the mainstream literature associates the phenomenon with “planets that have both atmospheres and magnetospheres”.

Planets that have both atmospheres and magnetospheres (Earth and Jupiter for example) are expected, and observed, to exhibit the phenomenon of corotation, whereby the magnetospheric plasma rotates with essentially the angular velocity of planetary rotation.

Inertial Limit on Corotation – T. W. Hill
Space Physics and Astronomy Department, Rice University, Houston, Texas
Journal of Geophysical Research – 1979

Click to access Hill%2079%20Inert%20lim%20corot%20JA084iA11p06554.pdf

The mainstream literature also provides a corotating “electric” connection between the ionosphere and the magnetosphere:

The rotating ionospheric plasma polarizes so as to produce a corotation electric field…
This electric field is then transmitted outward to enforce the corotation of the magnetospheric plasma, under the assumption that the magnetic field lines are perfect conductors [Ferraro, 1937].

Inertial Limit on Corotation – T. W. Hill
Space Physics and Astronomy Department, Rice University, Houston, Texas
Journal of Geophysical Research – 1979

Click to access Hill%2079%20Inert%20lim%20corot%20JA084iA11p06554.pdf

However, the low viscosity of the Earth’s atmosphere [again] provides a stumbling block for this “top down” approach. The rotational velocity of the ionosphere is higher than that of the Earth’s surface but the mass of the ionosphere is very significantly less than that of the lower atmosphere.

Therefore, the “top down” transfer of momentum can’t propagate corotation all the way down to the surface. Even an ardent “top down” advocate would have to develop some miraculous mathematics to explain how the downward propagation [from the ionosphere] resulted in a corotating atmosphere with a velocity that exactly synchronised with Earth’s rotation at the surface.

Atmospheric corotation is a fundamental problem without a real solution.

The geocentric “bottom up” and “top down” solutions both founder upon atmospheric viscosity.

However, if we examine the Gas Giants [in the Solar System] we discover that the axial rotation periods of these large planets [which have atmospheres and magnetospheres] may be related [in some unknown way] with their diameters.

Gas Giants - Rotation Period

This raises the possibility that “planetary rotation” [and the associated “atmospheric corotation”] may be directly controlled by a single [yet to be identified] facet of the Solar System.

The “R squared” value of “0.9921” indicates that this potential merits further investigation.

Additionally, for those so inclined, the derived formula includes the value “1.6146” which is extremely close to the value of the Golden Ratio:

The golden ratio is also called the golden section (Latin: sectio aurea) or golden mean.
Other names include extreme and mean ratio, medial section, divine proportion, divine section (Latin: sectio divina), golden proportion, golden cut, golden number, and mean of Phidias.

In mathematics and the arts, two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one.
Golden ratio

Intriguingly, Wikipedia references a 2010 report by the journal Science which indicates “that the golden ratio is present at the atomic scale in the magnetic resonance of spins in cobalt niobate crystals.”

Hidden symmetry observed for the first time in solid state matter

When applying a magnetic field at right angles to an aligned spin the magnetic chain will transform into a new state called quantum critical, which can be thought of as a quantum version of a fractal pattern. Prof. Alan Tennant, the leader of the Berlin group, explains “The system reaches a quantum uncertain – or a Schrödinger cat state. This is what we did in our experiments with cobalt niobate. We have tuned the system exactly in order to turn it quantum critical.”

By tuning the system and artificially introducing more quantum uncertainty the researchers observed that the chain of atoms acts like a nanoscale guitar string. Dr. Radu Coldea from Oxford University, who is the principal author of the paper and drove the international project from its inception a decade ago until the present, explains: “Here the tension comes from the interaction between spins causing them to magnetically resonate. For these interactions we found a series (scale) of resonant notes: The first two notes show a perfect relationship with each other. Their frequencies (pitch) are in the ratio of 1.618…, which is the golden ratio famous from art and architecture.” Radu Coldea is convinced that this is no coincidence. “It reflects a beautiful property of the quantum system – a hidden symmetry. Actually quite a special one called E8 by mathematicians, and this is its first observation in a material”, he explains.

UPDATE 3 Feb 2015

Couette Flow displays a characteristic “shear flow” pattern [when a rotating cylinder transfers momentum to a surrounding fluid] where the fluid velocity is fastest as the surface of the rotating cylinder and slowest at the outer wall of the containing drum.

In 1888 the French fluid dynamicist Maurice Couette looked at flow induced in a fluid sandwiched in the gap between two concentric cylinders of different sizes.

To induce flow, the inner cylinder was rotated, which drags the fluid next to the wall along with it.

This is now called Couette flow.


Flow – Philip Ball – 2009 – Oxford University Press

See: Taylor–Couette Circulation

Unsurprisingly, the characteristic “shear flow” pattern at the surface of the Earth is reversed with the fluid velocity being slower as the surface and faster at altitude.

Velocity distribution in the atmosphere and ocean

Atmospheric boundary-layer profiles

Environmental Fluid Mechanics – Ali Fazeli –

Therefore, fluid mechanics clearly indicates that the surface of the Earth is not driving atmospheric corotation.

Solar Wind Turbines

Gallery | This entry was posted in Astrophysics, Atmospheric Science, Earth, Electric Universe, Fluid Mechanics, Science, Solar System, Vortices. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Planetary Rotation 1: Atmospheric Corotation

  1. Pingback: Inner Van Allan Zebra Stripes | MalagaBay

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