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What are the stages of the water cycle?

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Quick Answer

The stages of the water cycle are evaporation, condensation, precipitation and collection. The water cycle is energized by the sun's energy and requires the attractive force of gravity.

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What are the stages of the water cycle?
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After the sun heats Earth's water, it begins to evaporate. Water from oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds and other sources turns into water vapor and rises into the atmosphere. This requires a physical change in the water molecules from a liquid to a gas. These newly formed water vapor molecules are not generally visible. In the next stage of the water cycle, the water vapor created during evaporation joins together to form clouds. The water vapor cools as it collects and returns to a liquid state. This stage is known as condensation. The clouds are composed of water vapor too small to fall as precipitation but are large enough to now be visible. The liquefied water vapor then increases in size as it joins with other water vapor molecules and, with the aid of gravity, begins to fall back to Earth in the form of rain, snow, hail or sleet. This stage is known as precipitation. The falling water hits the ground, rolls downhill or underground, and collects in oceans, rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater during the collection stage.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Why can Earth maintain bodies of water?

    A:

    Bodies of water on Earth are maintained by the atmosphere keeping the water cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation functioning so that water can be replenished. Also, the gravitational pull of the Earth keeps water from leaving the planet.

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  • Q:

    What is the water cycle?

    A:

    The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle, describes the process of how water moves through Earth's environment. In general, water evaporates from oceans, then it condenses in the atmosphere as water vapor cools. When enough water gathers in clouds, it precipitates back to the Earth's surface as rain, hail, snow or sleet.

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  • Q:

    What are the steps of the water cycle?

    A:

    The water, or hydrologic, cycle has only a few basic steps, beginning with evaporation of the water in rivers, lakes and oceans into water vapor, which then condenses into clouds. When enough water vapor condenses in the clouds, it then turns into either liquid water or ice. This then falls back to the ground through precipitation as either snow or rain, which will eventually evaporate again.

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  • Q:

    What is accumulation in the water cycle?

    A:

    Accumulation is the part of the water cycle in which water gathers in large quantities such as rivers, lakes, oceans, glaciers, ice caps and aquifers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. After water accumulates, it evaporates back into the atmosphere to start the water cycle over again. Accumulation occurs after water precipitates out of the sky.

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