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geostrophic motion

fluid flow in a direction parallel to lines of equal pressure (isobars) in a rotating system, such as the Earth. Such flow is produced by the balance of the Coriolis force (q.v.; caused by the Earth's rotation) and the pressure-gradient force. The velocity of the flow is proportional to the gradient of the pressure and inversely proportional to latitude. Although observed fluid motions are not strictly geostrophic, large-scale oceanic and atmospheric movements approach the ideal; that is, the geostrophic current usually represents the actual current within about 10 percent, provided the comparison is made over large areas and there is little curvature in the isobars

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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