May 30, 2024 at 12:29 pm

Here’s Why The Earth’s Rotation Doesn’t Speed Up Flights

by Trisha Leigh

Physics and electromagnetic fields, gravity…it can all be a bit hard to grasp if you’re not scientifically (or mathematically) minded.

For instance, doesn’t it seem like common sense that if a plane flies in a certain direction – against the earth’s rotation – it would speed up the flight?

In fact, some flat-earthers and/or people who claim the Earth isn’t spinning think the unchanged flight times are flat-out (heh) proof their position is correct.

Scientists promise that’s not the case.

Here’s an example:

Source: Shutterstock

Say you jump into the air at the equator, where Earth is spinning at 1,037 miles per hour, and stay airborne for 3 seconds.

You’re probably on a trampoline.

Well, in reality, you’re going to come back down in relatively the same spot where you jumped from.

If you were moving along with the panet, you’d land 0.86 miles west of your trampoline.

To assume that an airplane would speed up with the rotation of the Earth, it would have to be stationary in the air while they Earth moved beneath it.

This is not, however, because the Earth isn’t spinning.

It’s because inertia – the tendency for objects in motion to remain in motion in a straight line at the same velocity – means you move with the Earth.

Inertia applies to planes, too, so when they take off they must expend energy to move.

Also, our atmosphere isn’t static as the Earth spins. The Earth drags most of the atmosphere along with it; if it didn’t, flight would be all but an impossibility in the first place.

In reality, flying against the rotation of the Earth takes a little longer than flying east, according to SimpleFlying.

“The reason for quicker flights while flying eastwards is jet streams. Put simply, these are fast-flowing, narrow air currents in the atmosphere found at high altitudes.”

Source: Shutterstock

It also has a little bit to do with the Earth’s rotation, and also the atmosphere being heated by the sun. The faster rotations near the equator does affect jet streams, says NASA.

“The closer you get to the poles, the smaller the track a point takes in its daily rotation. At 60° North or South latitude, the track is only half the distance that it is at the equator, and so a point travels only half as fast. Air (or water) moving from high latitudes to low then tends to lag, and a person on the surface would feel a wind blowing out of the east. On the other hand, air moving from low latitudes to high is deflected westwards. This also means that moving air or water is deflected to the right in the northern hemisphere, and to the left in the southern hemisphere.”

So there you have it.

Although the Earth’s rotation might indirectly affect flight times as it affects wind speed and direction, the Earth is not actually moving beneath you while you’re in the air.

Welcome to the laws of physics.

If you think that’s impressive, check out this story about a “goldmine” of lithium that was found in the U.S. that could completely change the EV battery game.