Wednesday, May 1, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 1 - An Overview}

The water cycle is probably something that you’ve already learned in school. You know that water goes into the sky, forms a cloud, and then comes down as rain or snow to re-enter the earth and do it all again.

But the water cycle isn’t as much of a circle as you might think. Sometimes a water droplet might go through a plant, into a glacier, or even enter your body when you take a drink on a hot day.

Frannie wants to take a closer look at the different parts of the water cycle over the next few weeks to get to know all the different paths a water droplet can take, but before we can do that, we should review the basics.

Do you have your water cycle bracelet you made two weeks ago? Great! You can use that to follow along as we review the parts of the water cycle.

Frannie’s bracelet starts with an orange bead, which means our first stop will be groundwater. Groundwater is the water that’s underground. It fills the empty spaces between gravel and soil and is found in many different soil layers. In the next blog, Frannie will dive down into those layers and talk about aquifers, storage, and flow.

The next bead is black, which represents discharge. When we’re talking about the water cycle, discharge simply means that groundwater leaves the ground and enters another part of the water cycle.  Many people know that groundwater discharge is connected to rivers and oceans, but did you know that it’s also connected to volcanoes?! Frannie can’t wait to show you how!

The third bead is light blue and represents surface water.  Defining this one is easy because it’s the water we see around us in puddles on the sidewalk, lakes, and in the ocean. But as you might know, surface water is intertwined with all parts of the water cycle. Frannie will swim through all kinds of surface water to show you just how strong those connections are.

Evaporation is the dark blue bead that comes next on the bracelet. Evaporation is the process of water going from a liquid state into a gaseous state. You can actually see evaporation happen when you make a cup of hot chocolate. When you mix hot water and hot chocolate mix in your cup, you still have the liquid form that makes up the hot chocolate that you drink. The steam that rises from the top is also water, but it’s been heated to the point that it turns into a gas.  Frannie will share a little bit about how the sun heats and evaporates surface water, but she is excited to also dive in to the lesser known processes of “evaporation” from plants and mountains.

Condensation is the white bead, chosen because the largest collections of condensed water float in the sky above our heads: clouds. Condensation has to do with one of water’s unique properties of adhesion, or stickiness. Water molecules really like to adhere, or stick, together. After the water vapor has risen into the sky, it cools down and is drawn together to form a cloud. But clouds don’t just stay in one place. If they did, it would be raining over the oceans all of time. Frannie wants you to help her explore how water is transported through the clouds.

The yellow bead represents precipitation, a part of the water cycle we all know and love.  Precipitation is a fancy word to describe any kind of water falling from the sky onto the ground. It’s rain! It’s snow! It’s hail and sleet and mist! Frannie will look at different types of precipitation as well as spending some time with a peculiar way water gets from the sky to the ground, a process called deposition.

The second to last bead, green this time, is our runoff bead. Runoff is water that drains or flows off of something, like when it rains on the top of hill and the water flows quickly towards the bottom. But what happens when precipitation doesn’t land on the ground or on surface water? What happens if it a rain drop falls on a leaf on the top of a tree or a snowflake stays on your eyelashes? Frannie isn’t sure, but she’s excited to find out.

The last bead on Frannie’s bracelet is red and the last blog in this series will talk about recharge. Recharge sounds like a confusing topic, but Frannie has a helpful analogy to clear it up for you. Imagine you have a phone that is at 100% battery. That phone is like an aquifer that’s completely full. When you use the phone, the battery storage is slowly used up. Using up energy from your phone battery is similar to when groundwater is discharged from an aquifer. When the phone battery gets low, you have to refill the battery. How do you do that? You charge it! Recharge is the process that refills groundwater so that it’s there for us to use again and again.  Recharge can be done naturally, like when rain seeps and percolates through the ground below. Frannie has also heard about something called artificial recharge, so she’ll do some research on that too.

So that’s the water cycle! It’s a bit longer and more complicated than you might have originally thought, but Frannie is excited to go on this learning journey with you.

If you’re excited to learn more about the water cycle, let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!  See you next time when Frannie gets into groundwater!

No comments: