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The movement of water through the water cycle

The water cycle is the continuous movement of water over, above and beneath the Earth's surface. As water moves, it changes phase between liquid (water), solid (ice) and gas (water vapour). It is powered by solar energy and, because it is a cycle, it has no beginning or end.

The Water Cycle

The water cycle is the continuous circulation of water across the Earth. The water cycle is driven by solar radiation and it includes the atmosphere, land, surface water and groundwater. As water moves through the cycle, it changes state between liquid, solid, and gas phases. The actual movement of water from one part of the cycle to another (e.g. from river to ocean) is the result of processes such as evaporation, precipitation, infiltration and runoff.

The movement of water through the water cycle is shown in [link] . In the figure, each process within this cycle is numbered. Each process will be described below.

The water cycle
  1. The source of energy The water cycle is driven by the sun, which provides the heat energy that is needed for many of the other processes to take place.
  2. Evaporation When water on the earth's surface is heated by the sun, the average energy of the water molecules increases and some of the molecules are able to leave the liquid phase and become water vapour. This is called evaporation. Evaporation is the change of water from a liquid to a gas as it moves from the ground, or from bodies of water like the ocean, rivers and dams, into the atmosphere.
  3. Transpiration Transpiration is the evaporation of water from the aerial parts of plants, especially the leaves but also from the stems, flowers and fruits. This is another way that liquid water can enter the atmosphere as a gas.
  4. Condensation When evaporation takes place, water vapour rises in the atmosphere and cools as the altitude (height above the ground) increases. As the temperature drops, the energy of the water vapour molecules also decreases, until the molecules don't have enough energy to stay in the gas phase. At this point, condensation occurs. Condensation is the change of water from water vapour (gas) into liquid water droplets in the air. Clouds , fog and mist are all examples of condensation. A cloud is actually a collection of lots and lots of tiny water droplets. This mostly takes place in the upper atmosphere but can also take place close to the ground if there is a significant temperature change.

    Interesting fact

    Have you ever tried breathing out on a very cold day? It looks as though you are breathing out smoke! The moist air that you breathe out is much warmer than the air outside your body. As this warm, moist air comes into contact with the colder air outside, its temperature drops very quickly and the water vapour in the air you breathe out condenses. The 'smoke' that you see is actually formed in much the same way as clouds form in the upper atmosphere.
  5. Precipitation Precipitation occurs when water falls back to the earth's surface in the form of rain or snow. Rain will fall as soon as a cloud becomes too saturated with water droplets. Snow is similar to rain, except that it is frozen. Snow only falls if temperatures in the atmosphere are around freezing. The freezing point of water is 0 0 C.
  6. Infiltration If precipitation occurs, some of this water will filter into the soil and collect underground. This is called infiltration. This water may evaporate again from the soil at a later stage, or the underground water may seep into another water body.
  7. Surface runoff This refers to the many ways that water moves across the land. This includes surface runoff such as when water flows along a road and into a drain, or when water flows straight across the sand. It also includes channel runoff when water flows in rivers and streams. As it flows, the water may infiltrate into the ground, evaporate into the air, become stored in lakes or reservoirs, or be extracted for agricultural or other human uses.
It is important to realise that the water cycle is all about energy exchanges . The sun is the original energy source . Energy from the sun heats the water and causes evaporation. This energy is stored in water vapour as latent heat . When the water vapour condenses again, the latent heat is released and helps to drive circulation in the atmosphere. The liquid water falls to earth and will evaporate again at a later stage. The atmospheric circulation patterns that occur because of these exchanges of heat are very important in influencing climate patterns.

Experiment : the water cycle


Tile or piece of plastic (e.g. lid of ice-cream container) to make a hill slope; glass fish tank with a lid; beaker with ice cubes; lamp; water

Set up a model of the water cycle as follows:

  1. Lean the plastic against one side so that it creates a 'hill slope' as shown in the diagram.
  2. Pour water into the bottom of the tank until about a quarter of the hill slope is covered.
  3. Close the fish tank lid.
  4. Place the beaker with ice on the lid directly above the hill slope.
  5. Turn the lamp on and position it so that it shines over the water.
  6. Leave the model like this for 20-30 minutes and then observe what happens. Make sure that you don't touch the lamp as it will be very hot!

Observation questions:

  1. Which parts of the water cycle can you see taking place in the model?
  2. Which parts of the water cycle are not represented in the model?
  3. Can you think of how those parts that are not shown could be represented?
  4. What is the energy source in the model? What would the energy source be in reality?
  5. What do you think the function of the ice is in the beaker?

This video provides a summary of the stages of the water cycle.

Questions & Answers

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 10 physical science. OpenStax CNX. Aug 29, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11245/1.3
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