Behind the Forecast: An updated water cycle

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generic water(Pixabay)
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 10:11 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The water cycle is vital to the weather around the planet.

We learn about the water cycle in elementary school: evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. But there’s so much more to it.

The previous form, disseminated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has been around since 2000. In October, USGS released a more comprehensive and precise version of the water cycle for educators. The updated water cycle diagram shows more of how humans play a role in water distribution across the planet. The update includes how urban impervious surfaces (like asphalt and concrete) contribute to runoff, how humans use water in cities, industry, and agriculture, and the impact of human-made reservoirs.

The illustration also shows how interconnected various ecosystems are through watersheds and continents.

Some experts point out that it lacks some relevant parts of the water cycle. Some of the things that could’ve been incorporated include the acceleration of parts of the water cycle due to warming climates, reduced infiltrated (and increased flooding)due to impervious surfaces in urban environments, and the modification of precipitation and cloud processes due to additional aerosols created by urbanization and land use.

Overall, the update gives a more comprehensive view of how water travels around our planet and allows students to learn more about Earth.

An updated water cycle from USGS.
An updated water cycle from USGS.(USGS)