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Meghan Brockmeyer

Mr. Kemp

AP Environmental Science, A1

2/21/09

Chapter 15 FRQ

A- Six fundamental processes of the hydrologic cycles include precipitation,


infiltration, runoff, transpiration, groundwater flow, and stream flow. Precipitation
is the primary mechanism for transporting water from the atmosphere to the
surface of the earth. When the clouds meet cool air over land, precipitation, in the
form of rain, sleet or snow, is triggered and water returns to the land (or sea). A
proportion of atmospheric precipitation evaporates. When rain, snow or sleet
finally comes into contact with the ground, it either infiltrates into the ground or is
transferred in runoff. Most of the water that returns to land flows downhill as
runoff (such runoff in which water travels from land to the ocean through streams,
rivers, and other channels). Some of it penetrates and charges groundwater
(infiltration) while the rest, as river flow, returns to the oceans where it
evaporates. As the amount of groundwater increases or decreases, the water table
rises or falls accordingly. When the entire area below the ground is saturated,
flooding occurs because all subsequent precipitation is forced to remain on the
surface. Different surfaces hold different amounts of water and absorb water at
different rates. Infiltration is when water on the surface of the land seeps into the
ground. Some of the underground water is trapped between rock or clay layers -
creating groundwater. Water infiltrates the soil and flows downward until it
encounters impermeable rock and then travels laterally. The locations where water
moves laterally are called ‘aquifers’. Groundwater returns to the surface through
these aquifers, which empty into lakes, rivers and the oceans. Transpiration is
simply the evaporation of water from plant stomata openings, and about 90% of
the water that enters the plants roots is used for transpiration.
B- Two driving forces behind the hydrologic cycle are the sun and
The differential heating of the earth’s surfaces by the sun warms the oceans
around the tropics, and its absence cools the water around the poles. This causes
all of the ocean currents of warm water; it causes evaporation which gives rise to
precipitation and transpiration. The sun powers the processes that control our 
climate and the content of our atmosphere. Without it, we wouldn't have oxygen or 
liquid water on our planet, let alone weather or seasons.
C- Three significant anthropogenic interventions in the hydrologic cycle are
diversions of river water for flood irrigation, overloading water systems with
slowly degradable and non-degradable wastes along with withdrawing water form
underground supplies faster than it is replenished, and introducing clouds with
iodide to make them condense faster. Diverting major rivers has had a major
impact on local ground water tables, as flood irrigation has given way to sprinkler
irrigation over recent decades, artificial replenishment from flood irrigation has
waned, ground water levels have declined, many downstream ecosystems are
disappearing, and when a smaller amount of water enters the oceans there is less
evaporation and precipitation patterns often change. When we introduce waste
into our waters, it blocks and contaminates many water routes, causing such
problems as acid rain and downstream contamination into waters used by wildlife.
Depositing iodide into clouds to stimulate rain in many arid areas has caused
extreme weather pattern changes and puts water in places where it would not
normally exist, which can create unordinary evaporation patterns because there
are few clouds to seed. It also creates problems when the chemical effects of
cloud seeding hit wildlife and human waters, which can lead to contamination and
potential loss in agricultural productivity.