Dhristi JEE 2022-24

Water Vapor Definition

Water vapor is a gas phase of water that is also known as aqueous vapor. Generally, it is obtained from the evaporation or boiling of liquid water and also sometimes from the sublimation of ice. Water vapor is transparent as most constituents of the atmosphere are transparent. The vapors of water are generated and removed in a continuous process as its generation is done by evaporation and removal is done by the process of condensation under typical atmospheric conditions. In comparison to most of the other constituents of air, It is less dense and triggers convection currents that can lead to clouds.


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Water Vapor in the Atmosphere

Water vapor in air is essential for living beings, but its presence in the atmosphere is essential for living beings. It is present in the atmosphere in variable amounts because it is sometimes present in trace amounts and sometimes even makes up almost 4% of the atmosphere but is a vital component of the hydrologic cycle. The concentration of water in the atmosphere depends largely on where the water vapor levels are measured. On average it is observed the value of water vapor in the atmosphere is 2-3%.

The existence of water vapor in the atmosphere is in the form of an invisible gas even on a clear day. The hydrological cycle is made from water vapor because it is a major component of it since it is very prominent in the atmosphere and forms precipitation. When areas that hold water are heated by the Sun, some of the water starts evaporating and becomes vapor which is helpful for powering the water cycle.


Water Cycle

The water cycle is a cycle where all forms of water follow as it moves around Earth in different states. The presence of vapors of water in liquid form is found in lakes, oceans, rivers, and even in some amount underground. Water is all over Earth in the ocean, on land, and in the atmosphere. The four major stages are present or found in the water cycle. The stages of the water cycle are given below.


  • Evaporation: Evaporation occurs when heat obtained from solar radiation causes water from water sources such as streams, ice, oceans, lakes, and soils to rise into the air and turn into water vapor. Droplets of vapors of water are joined together and result in the making of clouds. Many factors are present in the environment that affect the stage of evaporation such as when the air is clogged there will not be enough space in the air for the liquid to quickly evaporate. The air is saturated with water when the humidity is 100 percent. Hence no more water would be evaporated.

  • Condensation: In the stage of condensation the water vapor present in the air cools down and turns back into liquid water.

  • Precipitation: When the water in the form of sleet, rain, hail, and snow falls from clouds in the sky it is precipitated.

  • Collection: The collection stage occurs to store the excess water. This stage resends the water in the atmosphere according to the requirement. Water from the clouds comes to earth in the form of snow, rain, hail, or sleet. This water is stored or collected in the oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Most amounts of this water used to be soaked into the ground and will collect as underground water.


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The power to generate the water cycle is obtained from solar energy and gravity. The whole cycle is started by the sun by heating all the water of the Earth and making it evaporate. Gravity is helpful for the water cycle as it makes the moisture fall back to Earth.


Climate Impacts

Water vapor moves across the surface of the Earth cycling through different storage regions. This cycling process of water vapor shapes the climate of different regions all over the world through precipitation. This is supporting the life of the living organisms. The distribution and cycling of water vapor changes with the change of climate.


Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, and because of its chemical structure, it is the most potent of all greenhouse gasses. 

Water vapor is serving to create a positive feedback cycle for global warming as a greenhouse gas. It implies that when the average temperature of the world gets an increase, more vapors of water will exist in the air because the rate of evaporation from water sources such as oceans, lakes, and streams would increase. The water vapor is a reason for more warming since there is then more water vapor in the air. The total content present in the atmosphere of water vapor does not increase by human activities but the activities performed by humans can be the reason for causing more water to evaporate which results in the increased temperature of the atmosphere. Thus a greater water vapor content can enhance anthropogenic warming in the atmosphere.


Did You know?

  • The weight of water vapor is less than air hence it slightly reduces the lift produced by an aircraft wing. 

  • A big cause of the greenhouse effect is water vapor.

Water vapor is an important constituent of the atmosphere. The level of water sources such as a lake, pool, and glass of water would be decreased because of evaporation. The water vapor remains in the atmosphere in the form of humidity or the amount of moisture in the air. Those regions that have high temperatures and large bodies of water are usually very humid. Water is continuously evaporating but stays in the air in the form of vapor.

FAQs on Water Vapor

1. What is the chemical water vapor formula?

The water vapor formula is the same as water because it is a form of water hence the chemical formula for water vapor is the same formula H2O. The Water vapor is invisible. The hydrogens atoms are attracted towards the atoms of oxygens in nearby molecules and form weak hydrogen bonds. Above 0oC some molecules have enough thermal energy to break the hydrogen bonds, & so evaporate to form a vapor. The temperature will rise because of the more breaking of bonds which causes water to boil at 100 degrees celsius. The water approaches its boiling condition as the temperature increases some molecules of water obtain enough kinetic energy to reach velocities that allow them to escape from the liquid into the space 

2. What is evaporation in the water cycle?

The stage of evaporation is an important step involved in the water cycle. The stage of the water cycle where the change of liquid water to water vapor is observed is called evaporation. The evaporation process gets the power or heat from the sun to continue the process. The process of evaporation occurs in the atmosphere when liquid water changes to gaseous water. When water is heated above the boiling temperature it evaporates. It also helps form clouds while the water evaporates. The moisture is released in the form of rain or snow by the clouds. The liquid waterfalls to Earth and again it evaporates. Hence this cycle starts all over again.

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