A simplified analytical approach for modeling the synchronous instability phenomenon known as the Morton effect is presented. The analysis is straightforward and easily applied to any rotor supported on fluid film bearings. The analysis clarifies the interaction of three distinct machine characteristics, which combine to create a case of the Morton effect. Some example calculations are shown illustrating the possible types of spiral vibration. In addition, an analytical approach is described for estimating the magnitude of the shaft temperature difference in a journal bearing as a direct function of the shaft orbit. It is significant that this method can readily be applied to any type of journal bearing, from plain sleeve bearings to tilting pad bearings. Example calculations using the method are shown.