Earth is the only planet in the solar system that promotes life. Only an abundance of so much water makes it possible. The sole reason the Earth is called “Blue Planet” is due to the presence of around 70% water in various forms. Many major components in the atmosphere circulate in the form of cycles. The continuous flow of water in nature can affect the global climate and weather. Let us learn how does the water cycle affect weather and climate?
1. How Does the Water Cycle Affect Weather and Climate?
Every student has learnt about the water cycle or the hydrological cycle in school. But the oversimplification of this complex phenomenon makes us all misunderstand the complexity of it. If there is something wrong with the water cycle at any place, then this can affect the weather and climate as well.
2. Brief Steps of Water Cycle:
There are many forms of water. Major forms include rivers, oceans, seas, and underground water. Water is also present in minimal amounts in clouds, snow, sea ice, and soil. What water is lost from the Earth comes back through the water cycle.
When the sunlight falls on the Earth, the temperature increases. This causes water present in the liquid form in seas, oceans, rivers, and lakes, to get converted into the gaseous form. This step is known as evaporation and the gaseous form of water is called water vapor.
Ocean water contributes significantly to evaporation. Each step of the water cycle can affect weather and climate. If evaporation is too high in an area with already less water, then this can cause drought-like conditions. Eventually, this becomes an issue for land areas. This can cause various problems in fields, agriculture, and daily life functioning. Water evaporates more in warmer areas as compared to colder areas.
The process through which water vapours change to liquid form is known as condensation. This is a very important step to keep the water cycle going. When the temperature of the Earth decreases, evaporated water molecules solidify and aggregate together to form clouds.
Clouds have a very important role in managing the temperature in hotter areas. When there are too many clouds in the sky, we experience cooler temperatures, especially in the monsoons. This help to deal with hot summers.
Precipitation is a phenomenon through which water falls on the ground in various forms like rain, snow, and dew, etc., When there is moisture in the surroundings, the water-filled clouds burst and this leads to rain. This is the crucial step to restore the lost water on the Earth.
3. What is the Difference Between Weather and Climate?
Climate and weather may sound very similar but there is a huge difference between the two. The major difference between weather and climate arises with time. When we talk about the weather, we are talking about the changes in the atmosphere over a short period. Many times we blame the weather for our cancelled plans. This is because a short-term change has occurred in the atmosphere.
On the other hand, climate means a very significant change in the environment over a long period. We say summers are becoming more hotter than usual. This means the climate has changed because it is a change that has been occurring for a long time.
4. How Does the Water Cycle Affect Weather and Climate?
4.1 Ocean Currents:
Ocean water plays a crucial role in the management of the water cycle. Ocean water absorbs maximum solar radiation as they cover a lot of the Earth’s surface. Therefore, it also contributes to forming most of the water vapours. Many scientists believe that the constant evaporation in the oceans can be a major reason for storms as the area has high atmospheric pressure.
Ocean currents are the movement of water as a result of strong winds and temperature changes. If ocean currents do not manage the movement of water then the temperature of the surroundings can rise making equators very hot and poles very cold. This will cause an imbalance in the temperature.
The gravitational pull from the Moon generates tidal forces in seas and other water bodies. Water flow in the seas becomes very strong as water tries to move closest to the Moon due to its gravitational force. The bulges generated due to this phenomenon are called high and low tides.
Many scientists have claimed that tides can affect rainfall in the surrounding regions. When the moon is very high in the sky, then unpredictable rainfall occurs and there are many other changes in the weather. The air pressure also increases and eventually, the temperature rises. Due to this, the speed of the water cycle becomes very fast.
4.3 Melting of Glaciers:
In the Arctic and Antarctic regions, the temperature is extremely low. Due to the low temperature water in these areas becomes solid leading to the formation of sea ice. Every year, sea ice melts during summer and solidifies during winter. Many geologists have now discovered that due to a very significant climate change, sea ice is melting at a very high rate and is not regenerating back at the same rate.
The global temperatures of the Earth have increased which has affected the water circulation and sea level. Increasing global warming has also caused an impact on the rate of precipitation and water vapour concentration.
One of the main reasons for increasing floods in many regions is these melting glaciers. Cold water also changes the pressure of the nearby areas.
4.4 Storms and Hurricanes:
The intensity of the water cycle influences the intensity of the Earth’s climate and weather. The water cycle is a very high-energy process. Sometimes, the energy can become uncontrollable and this can cause disasters like hurricanes and storms. Warm ocean water is also a main reason for storms and tycoons. Water vapors generate excessive pressure and they can heat the atmosphere.
The water cycle is a major part of the better functioning of the environment. It affects weather and climate in both positive and negative ways. But still, it is an essential component to manage the temperature and pressure in the atmosphere. Now rising global temperatures have become a major concern for environmentalists. Water is undoubtedly a crucial resource and we need to embrace all aspects of it.
Check out: How Did Climate Change Affect Early Humans