Meaning of the Water Cycle (with pictures)
What is the Water Cycle (with images):
The water cycle, also known as the hydrological cycle, is the process of transformation and circulation of water on Earth.
In this sense, the water cycle consists of the transfer of water from one place to another, changing its physical state: going from a liquid state to a gaseous or solid state, or from a gaseous state to a liquid, depending on the environmental conditions.
On Earth, water is distributed in the seas, rivers or lakes in a liquid state; in the glaciers of the poles and mountains in the solid state, and in the clouds, in the gaseous state.
Depending on the phase of the process, the water will be found in one place or another. Next, we will explain schematically and with illustrative images how water circulates in each of its stages.
See more about Biogeochemical Cycles.
Stages of the water cycle
Phase 1: Evaporation
The water cycle begins with evaporation. Evaporation occurs when the sun heats the surface of the waters of rivers, lakes, lagoons, seas, and oceans. The water then turns into steam and rises to the atmosphere, where the next phase will take place: condensation.
See more about Evaporation.
Phase 2: Condensation
The next stage of the water cycle is condensation. During this phase, the water vapor that has risen to the atmosphere thanks to evaporation, concentrates in droplets that will form clouds and mist.Once there, the water will revert to its liquid state again, which brings us to the next step: precipitation.
See more about Condensation.
Phase 3: Precipitation
Precipitation is the third step in the water cycle. It occurs when condensed water from the atmosphere descends to the surface in the form of small droplets.
In the coldest regions of the planet, however, water goes from a liquid to a solid state (solidification) and precipitates as snow or hail. Later, when thawing occurs, the water will return to a liquid state in a process known as melting.
See more about Precipitation.
Phase 4: Infiltration
The fourth stage of the water cycle is infiltration. Infiltration is the process in which the water that has fallen on the earth's surface as a result of rainfall penetrates the ground. One part is used by nature and living beings, while the other is incorporated into groundwater.
Phase 5: Runoff
Runoff is the final stage of the water cycle. This phase includes the movement of water through the surface, thanks to the slopes and accidents of the terrain, to enter again in the rivers, lakes, lagoons, seas and oceans, which constitutes the return to the beginning of the cycle.
In addition, runoff is the main geological agent of erosion and sediment transport.