Components of the global water cycle

NASA briefly explains the water cycle:

Water regulates climate, predominately storing heat during the day and releasing it at night. Water in the ocean and atmosphere carry heat from the tropics to the poles. The process by which water moves around the earth, from the ocean, to the atmosphere, to the land and back to the ocean is called the water cycle.

The three animations above show hourly evaporation, water vapor, and precipitation, based on “data from the GEOS-5 atmospheric model on the cubed-sphere, run at 14-km global resolution for 25-days.” I’m not even going to pretend like I know what I’m talking about, but it is fun to watch the simulated global water movements. Remember, these are based on actual data. They are not closeups of lava lamps.

[Video Link via Data Pointed]


  • Closeups of lava lamps are data. Flowing data, in fact.

  • I couldn’t help but think of this great song by Tom Lewis (from

    One Big Ocean

    Words & Music by Tom Lewis
    (Recorded by Tom Lewis on 360° All Points of the Compass)

    “Can you name the Seven Seas?” asked the bright-eyed little girl,
    “Can you tell me all the names of all the oceans in the world?”
    I was feeling quite embarrassed, so I tried to do my best
    Though I hadn’t done my homework for a geographic test.
    I told her that the Seven Seas could all be found in books
    But a complex situation often needs another look,
    When you think of all the lakes and streams,
    The rivers, bays and brooks, there is really one One Big Ocean.

    One big ocean, joining up the seven seas,
    One big ocean, from the mountains to the deeps.
    One big ocean, the way it seems to me
    There is really only one big ocean.

    Water comes down from the sky and falls as rain or snow,
    It settles on the hilltops or valleys down below,
    It might go slow in glaciers or fast in mountain creeks,
    So its journey to the ocean could take centuries or weeks.
    Suppose it settles down a while to rest in lakes or ponds,
    It can always find a waterway so it can carry on.
    It never travels up the hill, it’s always flowing down,
    And often near the coast you’ll find it running through a town.

    Water flows from faucets and in caves beneath the ground,
    There’s water in our bodies, there is water all around.
    Sometimes it’s quite invisible, sometimes it’s clouds or steam,
    You need it to have rainbows; it’s right there in milk and cream.
    When a wind or breeze is blowing, water hops on for the ride.
    It can fly across a continent right to the other side.
    The oceans mix together, so they’re really all the same –
    And it’s just for our convenience that we give them different names.

    listen to sampleListen to a sample.