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Water Cycle Process

Last updated date: 09th Apr 2024
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Define the Water Cycle Process?

Water is one of the most valuable resources required for all living organisms to survive on earth. 97% of the total earth’s water from the surface to the atmosphere and water is available in the form of oceans and the rest 3% is frozen up in the form of glaciers or icebergs.

With the help of recycling the same water has been moving around the world for centuries, this process of recycling water has been happening from the evolution of the earth. This process of moving the earth’s water above and below the surface is called the “water cycle”.

Overview of Water Cycle Process

The continuous movement of water from the surface to clouds and from clouds to the surface is also called the Hydrologic Cycle. The sun, air, and many other factors include in the process of the water cycle, water goes through all the states of matter like solid, liquid and gas. The water cycle is a process, in which water evaporates from the surface into the atmosphere, cools and condenses through the rain in clouds and again falls on the surface with the process of precipitation.

Water falling on the surface of the water after precipitation gets collected in the form of groundwater, rivers, ponds, lakes, etc., which all combine in oceans and again get evaporated. The water vapours from the oceans or sea do not include salt as salt is heavy to rise due to its high density, which implies the water from oceans or sea is not salty.

Effects on Climate

Most of the steps of the process of the water cycle include an important role of the sun, as solar energy powers the water cycle. The effects of evaporation may have led to the increase in the atmospheric temperature making the surface warmer, but due to the evaporation cooling, the temperature is reduced making the atmosphere cool. This evaporation cooling is done by the evaporation process through oceans as 86% of the global evaporation occurs from the oceans. 

From this, we can say that adding or subtracting the heat makes the water cycle work continuously. The process of the water cycle includes the exchange of energy and influences the climate of the earth, as in the process of evaporation it takes up the energy making the environment cool and while condensing the water it releases the energy making it cool, making the climate and temperature stable. The water vapours formed in the atmosphere are generally restricted to the troposphere.

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Steps of the Water Cycle

The water is available at a very low amount around the world. This amount of water has been moving in the world for centuries with the process of the water cycle.

The process of the water cycle mainly includes 4 steps which are:

  1. Evaporation

  2. Condensation

  3. Precipitation

  4. Runoff and infiltration

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1. Evaporation

Evaporation is a very important process, as this step includes the transfer of water from the earth’s surface in the form of water vapours to the atmosphere. Normally, the evaporation of water takes place when the water touches its boiling point i.e. 100 degrees. Evaporation is also known as “transpiration”, as the transfer of water from the minute pores present on the leaves of the plant in the form of water vapours to the atmosphere is called transpiration or total evaporation. The process of evaporation cooling cools the atmospheric temperature as the solar energy is falling on the surface of the earth making the surface warm and making the vapours of the water present in the ocean move towards the atmosphere, due to the rising air currents. Similarly, vapours from plants, trees, well, underground water, etc, rises up in the sky making the earth’s surface cool. The vapours can also be formed through snow or ice without even converting it into the water, this process of directly converting solid into a gaseous state is called “sublimation”. The basic elements required for sublimation include strong sunlight, low air pressure, strong wind, low temperature, and low humidity.

2. Condensation

After the process of converting water into vapours that rise up in the sky, the vapours are again converted in the liquid form due to the increase in temperature as it comes in contact with the cool air making the atmosphere cool, this process of conversion of vapours again in the liquid form is called Condensation. This process of condensation starts as soon as the air is full of water vapours and is ready to convert the vapours into water droplets again. The water vapours convert in the form of liquid after it hits the 0° temperature and combine to form a tiny droplet of water, these tiny droplets merge together to form a larger droplet of water.

When the droplet is large enough to cross the up drift of the cloud formed by water vapours, the droplets of water tend to move out of the cloud and fall down due to the gravity of the earth, this process of falling off water droplets on the earth surface is called precipitation which comes after condensation. If these merged droplets pass through a high air pressure then the droplets may get crystallised or freeze and fall upon the earth’s surface in the solid form like ice, snow, etc. If the circumstances are between those of snow and rain, then the droplets will fall with the icy cold, a half-frozen water droplet which is known as ‘sleet’.


3. Precipitation

The water vapours after condensation are turned into water droplets which are inside the clouds, moving around the world. These clouds strike each other due to the wind movement resulting in the form of rain and fall back on the earth’s surface in the form of rain, hail, snow or sleet depending on the atmospheric temperature, this process of again falling off the water droplets on the earth’s surface is called as “precipitation”. Precipitation occurs when the air cannot hold any more water droplets.

The precipitation that falls in the form of water can fall on various places for further evaporation like some may return back to the atmosphere by the process of evaporation, some may get evaporated through the surface of leaves and plants, some may get to the water bodies and directly flows to the oceans to get evaporated, some penetrates into the soil with the process of infiltration to the streams and groundwater. The water present near volcanoes or anywhere near to thermal energy sources is called ‘spring’.

4. Runoff and infiltration

When the water falls and comes to rest in lakes, oceans, wells, land, etc, this process is called “runoff”. While dropping down, if the droplets get in the snow or ice form, the lakes and oceans get melted in the form of water. This increases the water flow in the lakes and rivers, which can bring the problem of floods. This is the reason why there are generally more floods in the spring or summer season, as compared to the winters.

This process of the water cycle is a cyclic process that has no end or beginning. The main advantage of this cycle is that there is no loss of water, and the water present in the oceans and seas always remain levelled and there are clouds every time in the sky.

FAQs on Water Cycle Process

1. Give the states of water?

Water cycles in three stages during the water cycle: solid, liquid, and vapour. Ice is a solid form of water. The majority of the world's freshwater is ice, which is locked in huge glaciers, ice sheets, and ice caps. When ice melts, it transforms into a liquid. Liquid water can be found in the ocean, lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers.

Water vapour is a colourless gas. The distribution of water vapour in the atmosphere is not uniform. Water vapour is substantially more abundant above the ocean, accounting for up to 4% of the air. It can be less than one percent over isolated deserts.

2. Give some implications of the water cycle?

The climate is greatly influenced by the water cycle. The greenhouse effect, for example, will result in a rise in temperature. The temperature on Earth would increase sharply if the water cycle's evaporative cooling action was not there.

The water cycle is also noted for its ability to purify the air. During the precipitation process, water vapours, for example, must bind themselves to dust particles. Raindrops in polluted cities absorb water-soluble gas and contaminants, as well as dust, as they fall from the clouds. Raindrops have also been found to pick up biological agents like germs, as well as soot and smoke particles from the industry.

3. What is meant by the water cycle?

Water evaporates from the earth's surface, rises up into the atmosphere, cools and condenses as rain or snow in clouds, and then falls as precipitation to the ground. Water that falls on land gathers in rivers and lakes, soil, and porous layers of rock, and much of it eventually flows back into the oceans to evaporate. Water cycling in and out of the atmosphere is an important part of Earth's weather patterns.