By Priya Thyarala
The water cycle is an ongoing cycle that allows water to move between our rivers, lakes, atmosphere, oceans and land. In the water cycle, water is able to take the form of a gas, liquid, or solid. The four main stages of the water cycle are evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection.
Evaporation is how water goes from a liquid to a gas. The sun’s energy is key to this stage. In evaporation, the sun’s energy heats up water on Earth. The increase in temperature causes the water to turn into vapor, which is a gas, and evaporate into the atmosphere, where the temperature is colder.
Condensation is how water turns from a liquid back into gas. In condensation, the water vapor that rose up to the sky in evaporation, will cool down (due to the colder temperature) and turn back into a liquid state. These water droplets will condense into water droplets. These water droplets will then come together and form a cloud. These clouds will move around the earth due to air currents found in the sky.
In precipitation, the water from the clouds will fall back down to earth in the form of snow, sleet, hail, or rain. Precipitation will only happen when enough water accumulates in the clouds. If there are enough water droplets, the weight of them will cause the precipitation to fall back down to earth. If the temperature is cold enough, the water will fall as snow, sleet, or hail. However, if the temperature is not too cold, the water won't freeze up and will just fall down as rain.
In collection, the water that falls back down to earth begins to collect. This water can collect in rivers, lakes, or oceans and later evaporate back up into the atmosphere. If the water falls down on plants, the water may evaporate back into the atmosphere through the leaves. In colder areas, if the precipitation may fall down as snow. Once the temperature starts to rise, this snow will melt and soak into the ground and travel into lakes, rivers, or oceans. The whole water cycle will then repeat again!