Environment Notes

Water Cycle

Water Cycle

Water cycle, also known as the hydrological cycle, is a continuous process by which water circulates through the Earth’s atmosphere, land, and oceans. It is a fundamental concept in environmental science because it plays a crucial role in the distribution of water resources, weather patterns, and climate regulation. The water cycle consists of several key processes:

1. Evaporation: This is the process by which water changes from a liquid to a gas or vapor. It occurs when water from oceans, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water absorbs heat from the sun and turns into water vapor, which rises into the atmosphere.

2. Transpiration: Similar to evaporation, transpiration is the process by which water vapor is released into the atmosphere from the leaves of plants. Together, evaporation and transpiration are often referred to as “evapotranspiration.”

3. Condensation: As water vapor rises and cools in the atmosphere, it changes back into liquid form, creating clouds. This process is known as condensation. The tiny droplets of water in clouds combine to form larger droplets, which can eventually lead to precipitation.

4. Precipitation: When water droplets in clouds become heavy enough, they fall back to the Earth’s surface as precipitation in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail, depending on the temperature conditions.

5. Infiltration and Percolation: Some of the water that falls as precipitation is absorbed into the ground through infiltration. It then moves downward through the soil in a process called percolation, replenishing groundwater supplies.

6. Runoff: Water that does not infiltrate the ground flows over the surface and is called runoff. This water eventually makes its way into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Runoff can also collect pollutants from the land and carry them into water bodies.

7. Collection: This is the final stage of the water cycle, where water gathers in large bodies such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, from where it can evaporate and start the cycle over again.

The water cycle is a closed system, meaning no water is lost in the process; it is continually recycled. However, the distribution and availability of water can vary greatly in different parts of the world and at different times, leading to issues such as droughts and floods. Understanding the water cycle is crucial for managing water resources sustainably and addressing these challenges.

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