Water Cycle: Definition, Diagram & Stages

Water Cycle: Around 71% of the earth’s surface is formed from water. Water is vital to life on Earth. This water cycle is the continuous movement of water within the Earth and atmosphere. It involves major four processes, that is, evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and disposition or collection. This cycle of evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and disposition or collection is repeated again and again and is referred to as the water cycle. This cycle is repeated again and again to maintain the supply of water on land. The water cycle also affects the climate and all forms of life on the earth.

What is Water Cycle?

The water cycle also referred to as the hydrologic cycle or biogeochemical cycle involves the continuous circulation of water in the Earth-atmosphere system. Of the number of processes involved in the water cycle, the most important processes are evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, and runoff. Despite the fact that the total amount of water within the cycle remains essentially constant, its distribution among the various processes is continually changing. This circulation of water between ocean and land is a constant process. This helps to maintain the supply of water on land.

Water Cycle Diagram

The water cycle diagram depicts stages through which water from the earth goes to the atmosphere and returns back in the form of rain, snow, and hail. The water cycle is a continuous cycle, water from the oceans, rivers, and lakes by the energy of the sun is evaporated and reaches the atmosphere in the form of water vapors. Over time water vapor in the atmosphere condense to form clouds and finally, it falls down in the form of precipitation, snow, and hail. Reaching the earth’s surface, the water flows through the surface, percolates through the sink, or infiltrates into the soil forming the groundwater.

Stages of Water Cycle

The water cycle is a naturally continuous recycling process of water through different ecosystems, The water cycle process mainly includes four stages. These are:

1. Evaporation:

Evaporation is the first stage of the water cycle.  Most of the earth’s water is held by the ocean and the rest of held by rivers, and lakes. When the sunlight which is a great source of energy reaches the earth’s surface it evaporates. Due to heating up, the water particles are charged and evaporate faster. These evaporated particles reach the atmosphere in the form of water vapors. So, Evaporation is defined as the process by which liquid water changes its state into vapor. This process can occur by transpiration in which water evaporates through minute pores, or stomata, in the leaves of plants.

2. Condensation:

Condensation is the second stage of the water cycle. Usually, water from the atmosphere after reaching high altitudes(having low temperature) cools down and later on condenses from clouds. This process of transformation from vapor to cloud formation is a process of condensation.

3. Precipitation:

After Condensation, these water particles are in different forms. After the high amount of water vapor is collected it loses its gravity. Due to gravity, large droplets fall back to the earth, known as precipitation, it can be in the form of rain, snow, hail, or sleet.

4. Deposition or collection:

The deposition is the final stage of the water cycle. After precipitation, when evaporated water droplets fall back on the earth’s surface in form of precipitation, snow, hail, etc.  It may deposit in various water bodies, including lakes, rivers, oceans, and ponds, or some amount of water get infiltrated into the soil, or percolates through the sinks into the groundwater.

Thus, this water cycle is repeated again and again.

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