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Natural Processes - The Water Cycle

This section is dedicated to the physical and chemical processes that move and transform water. Water changes its form continually and can be present as liquid, solid ice or water vapour. Explore here the journey of water through atmosphere and the formation of rain. You can find information about the other natural processes that are related to the water cycle, such as monsoon, periodic flooding, erosion, cave formation and the formation, life and death of lakes, rivers, wetlands and ponds.

The cyclic transport of water on the Earth is called the hydrological cycle.


As sun heats the surface of a lake or the ocean, water vapour leaves and enters into the air. This process is called evaporation and it happens especially on sunny, calm days. The water vapour rises up in the atmosphere and can be transported by winds for very long distances.

If the air temperature cools down, water vapour starts to change back into liquid water. This process is called condensation and clouds are masses of water vapour condensing back into liquid water. When so much water has condensed that air cannot hold it anymore, rain falls. This is called precipitation. If the air temperature is very low, the condensing water may freeze, and we get snow, sleet or hail.

When water falls back to Earth, it may enter the lakes, rivers or it may end up on the ground. Soils absorb water and make it available to plant roots, which then use it to grow and photosynthesise. However, some of the rainwater is retained as groundwater. Aquifers are rocks storing water that has seeped through layers of sand and sediment, filtering out impurities in the process. Some of the water absorbed by soils runs back into the lakes and rivers. Now the water has gone through a full cycle and returned to where we started from. Evaporation from the lake surface will start the cycle again and again


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Editors: Chief Editor
ID: 2870right-click for short link
added: 28 April 2003
updated: 23 June 2003
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