Today, your students got to be water travelling through the earth’s water cycle! We learned that at its simplest, the water cycle can be summarized as:
- Water vapor in the atmosphere condenses into clouds
- Water particles in the clouds grow bigger, and fall to the earth as rain
- Rainwater lands in either the ocean, rivers, and lakes, or on the ground
- From the ocean, rivers, and lakes, water evaporates and re-enters the atmosphere
- On the ground, water infiltrates the earth and joins the groundwater, which eventually flows to the ocean
But during our activity, we discovered that the real water cycle is more complicated. Water can go through mini-cycles back and forth, traveling, for instance, from the atmosphere to the ocean and back to the atmosphere. Water can also become trapped for many years in the ocean, groundwater, or glaciers. It turns out that almost all (more than 96%) of the earth’s water is stored in the oceans; the water we use for drinking and watering crops mostly comes from the tiny fraction that is stored as fresh water in rivers and lakes!