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What is the Water Cycle?

The Water Cycle (also known as the hydrologic cycle) is the journey water takes
as it circulates from the land to the sky and back again.
Why do we need the water cycle?
The Earth is covered by water, however, almost 97% is salt water found in the
oceans. We can not drink salt water or use it for crops because of the salt
content. We can remove salt from ocean water, but the process is very
expensive.
How many processes make up the water cycle?
There are six important processes that make up the water cycle.
1.Condensation - the opposite of evaporation. Condensation occurs when

a gas is changed into a liquid.


2.Infiltration - Infiltration is an important process where rain water soaks

into the ground, through the soil and underlying rock layers.
3.Runoff - Much of the water that returns to Earth as precipitation runs off

the surface of the land, and flows down hill into streams, rivers, ponds and
lakes.
4.Evaporation - the process where a liquid, in this case water, changes

from its liquid state to a gaseous state.


5.Precipitation - When the temperature and atmospheric pressure are right,

the small droplets of water in clouds form larger droplets and precipitation
occurs. The raindrops fall to Earth.
6.Transpiration - As plants absorb water from the soil, the water moves

from the roots through the stems to the leaves. Once the water reaches
the leaves, some of it evaporates from the leaves, adding to the amount of
water vapor in the air. This process of evaporation through plant leaves is
called transpiration.

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/ocean/Watercycle.shtml
Introduction
Precipitation, evaporation, and transpiration are all terms that sound familiar, yet
may not mean much to you. They are all part of the water cycle, a complex
process that not only gives us water to drink, fish to eat, but also weather
patterns that help grow our crops.
Water is an integral part of life on this planet. It is an
odorless, tasteless, substance that covers more than
three-fourths of the Earth's surface. Most of the water on
Earth, 97% to be exact, is salt water found in the oceans.
We can not drink salt water or use it for crops because of
the salt content. We can remove salt from ocean water, but the process is very
expensive.
Only about 3% of Earth's water is fresh. Two percent of the Earth's water (about
66% of all fresh water) is in solid form, found in ice caps and glaciers. Because it
is frozen and so far away, the fresh water in ice caps is not available for use by
people or plants. That leaves about 1% of all the Earth's water in a form useable
to humans and land animals. This fresh water is found in lakes, rivers, streams,
ponds, and in the ground. (A small amount of water is found as vapor in the
atmosphere.)

Scientific Concepts

There are six important processes that make up the water cycle. These are:
Evaporation
Evaporation is the process where a liquid, in this case water,
changes from its liquid state to a gaseous state. Liquid water
becomes water vapor. Although lower air pressure helps promote
evaporation, temperature is the primary factor. For example, all of
the water in a pot left on a table will eventually evaporate. It may
take several weeks. But, if that same pot of water is put on a stove
and brought to a boiling temperature, the water will evaporate more
quickly.
During the water cycle some of the water in the oceans and
freshwater bodies, such as lakes and rivers, is warmed by the sun
and evaporates. During the process of evaporation, impurities in the
water are left behind. As a result, the water that goes into the
atmosphere is cleaner than it was on Earth.

Condensation
Condensation is the opposite of evaporation. Condensation occurs
when a gas is changed into a liquid. Condensation occurs when the
temperature of the vapor decreases.
When the water droplets formed from condensation are very small,
they remain suspended in the atmosphere. These millions of
droplets of suspended water form clouds in the sky or fog at ground
level. Water condenses into droplets only when there are small dust
particles present around which the droplet can form.

Precipitation
When the temperature and atmospheric pressure are right, the small

droplets of water in clouds form larger droplets and precipitation


occurs. The raindrops fall to Earth.
As a result of evaporation, condensation and precipitation, water
travels from the surface of the Earth goes into the atmosphere, and
returns to Earth again.

Surface Runoff
Much of the water that returns to Earth as precipitation runs off the
surface of the land, and flows down hill into streams, rivers, ponds
and lakes. Small streams flow into larger streams, then into rivers,
and eventually the water flows into the ocean.
Surface runoff is an important part of the water cycle because,
through surface runoff, much of the water returns again to the
oceans, where a great deal of evaporation occurs.

Infiltration
Infiltration is an important process where rain water soaks into the
ground, through the soil and underlying rock layers. Some of this
water ultimately returns to the surface at springs or in low spots
downhill. Some of the water remains underground and is called
groundwater.
As the water infiltrates through the soil and rock layers, many of the
impurities in the water are filtered out. This filtering process helps
clean the water.

Transpiration
One final process is important in the water cycle. As plants
absorb water from the soil, the water moves from the roots
through the stems to the leaves. Once the water reaches
the leaves, some of it evaporates from the leaves, adding
to the amount of water vapor in the air. This process of

evaporation through plant leaves is called transpiration. In


large forests, an enormous amount of water will transpire
through leaves.

The Cycle
Water is constantly being cycled between the atmosphere, the ocean
and land. This cycling is a very important process that helps sustain life Each part of the
on Earth.
cycle drives the
other parts.
As the water evaporates, vapors rise and condense into clouds. The
clouds move over the land, and precipitation falls in the form of rain,
ice or snow. The water fills streams and rivers, and eventually flows
back into the oceans where evaporation starts the process anew.
Learn a lot more about this complicated process in concepts.

Water's state (solid, liquid or gas) is determined mostly by temperature. Although water
continuously changes states from solid to liquid to gas, the amount of water on Earth rema
constant. There is as much water now as there was hundreds of millions of years ago.
Cloud Formation
Precipitation is one key to the water cycle. Rain comes from clouds, but where
do clouds come from?
Through the process of evaporation and transpiration, water moves into the
atmosphere. Water vapors then join with dust particles to create clouds.
Eventually, water returns to Earth as precipitation in the form of rain, snow, sleet,
and hail.
All clouds contain water vapors. You rarely ever see clouds in the desert
because there is very little water to evaporate and form clouds. Coastal regions
can receive a lot of rain because they pull up moisture from surrounding waters.

Cloud size are influenced by many complex factors, some of which we still do
not understand very well. These include: heat, seasons, mountain ranges,
bodies of water, volcanic eruptions, and even global warming.

Have you ever wondered why clouds have such unusual names?
In 1802 an Englishman by the name of Luke Howard invented the cloud naming
system that is still in use today. Howard used Latin names to describe clouds.
(The first part of a cloud's name describes height, the second part shape.)
The prefixes denoting heights are: cirro, high clouds above 20,000 feet (6,250
meters), alto and mid level clouds between 6,000 - 20,000 feet (1,875 - 6,250
meters). There is no prefix for low level clouds.
The names denoting shapes are:cirrus mean curly or fibrous, stratusmeans
layered, while cumulus means lumpy or piled.
Nimbo or nimbus is added to indicate that a cloud can produce precipitation.
Given that information, describe what each of the following clouds would look
and act like?
Cumulonimbus
Nimbostartus
Cirrocumulus
Altostratus
http://www.mbgnet.net/fresh/cycle/index.htm
The Water Cycle
Diagram of the water cycle
Precipitation is a vital component of how water moves through Earths water
cycle, connecting the ocean, land, and atmosphere. Knowing where it rains, how
much it rains and the character of the falling rain, snow or hail allows scientists
to better understand precipitations impact on streams, rivers, surface runoff and
groundwater. Frequent and detailed measurements help scientists make models
of and determine changes in Earths water cycle.
The water cycle describes how water evaporates from the surface of the earth,
rises into the atmosphere, cools and condenses into rain or snow in clouds, and

falls again to the surface as precipitation. The water falling on land collects in
rivers and lakes, soil, and porous layers of rock, and much of it flows back into
the oceans, where it will once more evaporate. The cycling of water in and out of
the atmosphere is a significant aspect of the weather patterns on Earth.

http://pmm.nasa.gov/education/water-cycle
Why is the water cycle important?
The water cycle is an important process that recycles water and nutrients. In
doing so, it brings freshwater to people, animals and plants all around the world.
The water cycle begins with the ocean, lakes, ponds and other bodies of water
on earth. Water evaporates from these bodies of water, and as the evaporated
water lifts into the sky, it is cooled rapidly and condenses to form clouds. These
clouds act as storage compartments for water. As they become filled with water,
precipitation occurs. Clouds travel all around the world by wind currents and can
bring precipitation to every part of the world. Once the water reaches the ground
in the form of rain, snow, sleet or ice, some of the water may evaporate back
into the air to form clouds, while other parts of the water may penetrate the soil
and become groundwater. The groundwater can either return to the atmosphere
and form clouds via transpiration, or it can flow into oceans, rivers, streams and
other bodies of water. The cycle then begins again, with water evaporating from
earths bodies of water.
http://www.ask.com/science/water-cycle-important-c491ffb9d9287987
Acid Rain
Effects Felt Through the Food Chain
Here's what you need to know about the warming planet, how it's affecting us,
and what's at stake.
Acid rain describes any form of precipitation with high levels of nitric and sulfuric
acids. It can also occur in the form of snow, fog, and tiny bits of dry material that
settle to Earth.
Rotting vegetation and erupting volcanoes release some chemicals that can
cause acid rain, but most acid rain falls because of human activities. The biggest
culprit is the burning of fossil fuels by coal-burning power plants, factories, and

automobiles.
When humans burn fossil fuels, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)
are released into the atmosphere. These chemical gases react with water,
oxygen, and other substances to form mild solutions of sulfuric and nitric acid.
Winds may spread these acidic solutions across the atmosphere and over
hundreds of miles. When acid rain reaches Earth, it flows across the surface in
runoff water, enters water systems, and sinks into the soil.
Acid rain has many ecological effects, but none is greater than its impact on
lakes, streams, wetlands, and other aquatic environments. Acid rain makes
waters acidic and causes them to absorb the aluminum that makes its way from
soil into lakes and streams. This combination makes waters toxic to crayfish,
clams, fish, and other aquatic animals.
Some species can tolerate acidic waters better than others. However, in an
interconnected ecosystem, what impacts some species eventually impacts
many more throughout the food chainincluding non-aquatic species such
as birds.
Acid rain also damages forests, especially those at higher elevations. It robs the
soil of essential nutrients and releases aluminum in the soil, which makes it hard
for trees to take up water. Trees' leaves and needles are also harmed by acids.
The effects of acid rain, combined with other environmental stressors, leave
trees and plants less able to withstand cold temperatures, insects, and disease.
The pollutants may also inhibit trees' ability to reproduce. Some soils are better
able to neutralize acids than others. In areas where the soil's "buffering
capacity" is low, the harmful effects of acid rain are much greater.
The only way to fight acid rain is by curbing the release of the pollutants that
cause it. This means burning fewer fossil fuels. Many governments have tried to
curb emissions by cleaning up industry smokestacks and promoting alternative
fuel sources. These efforts have met with mixed results. But even if acid rain
could be stopped today, it would still take many years for its harmful effects to
disappear.
Individuals can also help prevent acid rain by conserving energy. The less
electricity people use in their homes, the fewer chemicals power plants will emit.
Vehicles are also major fossil fuel users, so drivers can reduce emissions by
using public transportation, carpooling, biking, or simply walking wherever
possible.