Exploring the Water Cycle: Earth's Circulatory System

Water Cycle Introduction
Water Cycle Introduction
Earth's water cycle, or hydrologic cycle, circulates water through the planet's atmosphere, land, and oceans. This self-contained process is crucial for sustaining life, shaping weather patterns, and sculpting the geological landscape.
Unseen Vapor Movements
Unseen Vapor Movements
Every day, an invisible river of water vapor flows above us. Equivalent to 10 times the volume of all the rivers on Earth, this aerial river affects climates and transports water from ocean to land.
Ancient Water Still Here
Ancient Water Still Here
Some water molecules on Earth today are ancient, having been part of the water cycle for billions of years. They've journeyed through countless organisms and landscapes, from dinosaurs to your drinking glass.
Ice Trapped in Time
Ice Trapped in Time
Glaciers and ice caps hold ancient water in 'cold storage,' playing a long-term role in the water cycle. This ice reserves freshwater resources, potentially from the last Ice Age, released slowly over time.
Subterranean Water Secrets
Subterranean Water Secrets
Below the soil lies a hidden component of the water cycle: groundwater. Aquifers hold more water than all the world's rivers and lakes combined, and can take centuries to replenish, making them a precious resource.
Plants' Sweaty Contribution
Plants' Sweaty Contribution
Through transpiration, plants release vast amounts of water vapor. A large oak tree, for example, can exhale over 40,000 gallons annually. This lesser-known process is a significant part of the water cycle.
Rain's Varied Journey
Rain's Varied Journey
Rain's return to Earth can take as little as two days or as long as several centuries, depending on whether it falls as precipitation quickly or gets locked in ice or groundwater.
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What circulates water through Earth's systems?
Global warming cycles
Hydrologic cycle
Atmospheric circulation