When the sun shines, the water from the ocean or lake evaporates due to heat from the sun. When it evaporates, it turns into water vapour and goes up into the atmosphere. This water vapour gets together with other water vapour and turns into a cloud. When clouds get dense, they drop the water back to Earth in some form of precipitation like rain, snow, hail or sleet. When the water falls back down to the Earth, they find their way on the ground surface into puddles, streams and rivers. Again this water will evaporate and the whole cycle will start again.


 1: Evaporation

The water cycle starts with evaporation. It is a process where water at the surface turns into water vapours. Water absorbs heat energy from the sun and turns into vapours. Water bodies like the oceans, the seas, the lakes and the river bodies are the main source of evaporation. Through evaporation, water moves from hydrosphere to atmosphere. As water evaporates it reduces the temperature of the bodies.

 2: Condensation

 As water vaporizes into water vapour, it rises up in the atmosphere. At high altitudes the water vapours changes into very tiny particles of ice /water droplets because the temperature at high altitudes is low. This process is called condensation. These particles come close together and form clouds and fogs in the sky.

 3: Sublimation

Apart from evaporation, sublimation also contributes to water vapors in the air. Sublimation is a process where ice directly converts into water vapors without converting into liquid water. This phenomenon accelerates when the temperature is low or pressure is high.  Sublimation is a rather slower process than evaporation.

 4: Precipitation

The clouds (condensed water vapors) then pour down as precipitation due to wind or temperature change. This occurs because the water droplets combine to make bigger droplets. Also when the air cannot hold any more water, it precipitates. At high altitudes the temperature is low and hence the droplets lose their heat energy. These water droplets fall down as rain. If the temperature is very low (below 0 degrees), the water droplets fall as snow. Water also precipices in the form of drizzle, sleet and hail.

5: Transpiration

As water precipitates, some of it is absorbed by the soil. This water enters into the process of transpiration. Transpiration is a process similar to evaporation where liquid water is turned into water vapor by the plants. The roots of the plants absorb the water and push it toward leaves where it is used for photosynthesis. The extra water is moved out of leaves through stomata (very tiny openings on leaves) as water vapor. Thus water enters the biosphere and exits into gaseous phase.

 6: Runoff

As the water pours down (in whatever form), it leads to runoff. Runoff is the process where water runs over the surface of earth. When the snow melts into water it also leads to runoff. As water runs over the ground it displaces the top soil with it and moves the minerals along with the stream. This runoff combines to form channels and then rivers and ends up into lakes, seas and oceans. Here the water enters hydrosphere.

 7: Infiltration

Some of the water that precipitates does not runoff into the rivers and is absorbed by the plants or gets evaporated. It moves deep into the soil. This is called infiltration. The water seeps down and increases the level of ground water table. It is called pure water and is drinkable. The infiltration is measured as inches of water-soaked by the soil per hour.