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The balance between the Coriolis force and the horizontal pressure gradient that determines the first-order circulation patterns of the open ocean.

The Coriolis force is an apparent force exerted on a moving object by the rotation of the earth; an object that is moving horizontally above the earth's surface in the Northern Hemisphere tends to show a rightward deflection, and one in the Southern Hemisphere tends to show a lefward deflection.

Described by Gaspard de Coriolis, 1792-1843, A French civil engineer.