HYDROLOGIC CYCLE The movement of water on the earth's surface and through the atmosphere is known as the hydrologic cycle. Water is taken up by the atmosphere from the earth's surface in vapour form through evaporation. It may then be moved from place to place by the wind until it is condensed back to its liquid phase to form clouds. Water then returns to the surface of the earth in the form of either liquid (rain) or solid (snow, sleet, etc.) precipitation. Water transport can also take place on or below the earth's surface by flow. The hydrologic cycle is used to model the storage and movement of water between the biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere. Water is stored in the following reservoirs: atmosphere, oceans, lakes, rivers, glaciers, soils, snowfields, and groundwater. It moves from one reservoir to another by processes like: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, deposition, runoff, infiltration, sublimation, transpiration, and groundwater flow. Water is stored in the atmosphere in all three states of matter. Water vapour in the atmosphere is commonly referred to as humidity. If liquid and solid forms of water can overcome atmospheric updrafts they can fall to the Earth's surface as precipitation. The formation of ice crystals and water droplets occurs when the atmosphere is cooled to a temperature that causes condensation or deposition.
The planetary water supply is dominated by the oceans (Table 1.1). Approximately 97 % of all the water on the Earth is in the oceans. The other 3 % is held as freshwater in glaciers and icecaps, groundwater, lakes, soil, the atmosphere, and within life. Water is continually cycled between its various reservoirs. This cycling occurs through the processes of evaporation,
condensation, precipitation, deposition, runoff, infiltration, sublimation, transpiration, melting, and groundwater flow. 1] Evaporation – It occurs when radiant energy from the sun heats water, causing the water molecules to become so active that some of them rise into the atmosphere as vapour. It is the transfer of water from bodies of surface water into the atmosphere. This transfer entails a change in the physical nature of water from liquid to gaseous phases. Along with evaporation can be counted transpiration from plants. Thus, this transfer is sometimes referred to as evapotranspiration. 2]Precipitation can be defined as any aqueous deposit, in liquid or solid form, that develops in a saturated atmospheric environment and generally falls from clouds. A number of different precipitation types have been classified by meteorologists including rain, freezing rain, snow, ice pellets, snow pellets, and hail. Fog represents the saturation of air near the ground surface. The distribution of precipitation on the Earth's surface is generally controlled by the absence or presence of mechanisms that lift air masses to cause saturation. It is also controlled by the amount of water vapour held in the air, which is a function of air temperature. In cold air way up in the sky, rain clouds will often form. Rising warm air carries water vapor high into the sky where it cools, forming water droplets around tiny bits of dust in the air. Some vapor freezes into tiny ice crystals which attract cooled water drops. The drops freeze to the ice crystals, forming larger crystals we call snowflakes. When the snowflakes become heavy, they fall. When the snowflakes meet warmer air on the way down, they melt into raindrops. In tropical climates, cloud droplets combine together around dust or sea salt particles. They bang together and grow in size until they're heavy enough to fall. Vegetation in general, changes this distribution because of the fact that it intercepts some the falling rain. How much is intercepted is a function of the branching structure and leaf density of the vegetation. Some of the water that is intercepted never makes it to the ground surface. Instead, it evaporates from the...
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