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Weather Academy: Water Cycle

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 6:01 AM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - We have talked a lot about severe weather these last few weeks, but this week we wanted to take it back to the basics. Today we are going to be breaking down the water cycle. Understanding the water cycle and how it works is the key to understanding weather. The water cycle affects everything, from the cloud cover we see to the rain that falls from the sky.

We start out with our basic environment. Our main player in the water cycle is going to be the sun. The sun will heat bodies of water like this lake and cause the water to turn into an invisible gas called water vapor. The process of changing a liquid into a gas is called evaporation. Because gas is lighter than liquid, the water vapor rises up into the sky.

The further up into the atmosphere, the more the water vapor travels, the colder the temperature gets. At a certain point, the temperature meets the dew point. Once those two meet, our water vapor turns back into water droplets. The process of gas turning into a liquid is called condensation. The droplets then freeze and stick together to form our cloud.

The liquid water droplets are likely to merge over time within a cloud, forming larger droplets. At some point, these droplets may get large enough that they fall from the sky, and depending on the conditions, we may see hail, rain, sleet, or snow falling from the clouds. This is what we call precipitation.

When the precipitation reaches the surface, the water may flow into rivers, oceans, and streams. It may soak into the soil, where it will still move towards a river, but it will do so very slowly over a long time as it filters through the soil.

The cycle will repeat itself repeatedly, creating the water cycle. So next time you step outside, take a look around. Is the air humid and full of water vapor from evaporation? Do we have clouds in the sky forming from condensation? Or are we seeing precipitation in the form of rain or snow? The water cycle is happening all around us all the time! Next week, be sure to join us as we conduct a hands-on experiment relating back to the water cycle.

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