LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Students in Arkansas will be continuing their education online and through AMI Days for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a hard time for everyone, so the Arkansas Storm Team wants to do something to help! We will be providing a weekly weather education lesson, teaching students about a specific topic and showing how to create a fun science experiment at home.
This week’s lesson is all about the water cycle! Before we get to the experiment, let’s cover some science about the water cycle and how it works.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the water cycle as “a cycle of processes by which water circulates between the earth’s oceans, atmosphere and land, involving precipitation, drainage in streams and rivers, and return to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration.”
The sun drives the water cycle, giving off energy as a form of heat. Heat from the sun helps promote evaporation of water, from liquid to gas form. At the same time, the sun helps plants like trees to release water vapor – this is called transpiration.
Once water becomes a gas, known as water vapor or moisture, it is then carried by wind currents. In Arkansas, we generally get big amounts of water vapor from the Gulf of Mexico from southerly winds and the Pacific Ocean from westerly winds.
As the water vapor is moved, it will gradually rise in the atmosphere. As it rises, the water vapor cools and begins to condensate. When condensation occurs, water vapor (a gas) is converted back to a liquid. The liquid is known as precipitation that falls from the sky. Most often, the precipitation is rain, but it can also be snow, sleet, freezing rain, or hail.
Once the precipitation has fallen, using rain as an example, much of it is absorbed into the ground where plants and other vegetation will use it for growth. If there is too much rain that falls at once and the ground cannot soak up any more water, runoff occurs. The remaining water will find its way to creeks and rivers.
Creeks and rivers carry runoff water back to lakes and oceans where the water cycle begins all over again.
In Arkansas, runoff flows to the Arkansas River, which eventually makes its way to the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River then flows southward to the Gulf of Mexico.
Experiment: Water Cycle in a Bag
- Gallon Size Seal-able Clear Bag
- 1-2 Cups of Water
- Food Coloring (optional)
- Permanent Marker
- Heavy Duty Tape (Duct, Scotch for Packing)
- With a permanent marker, draw waves at the bottom of the bag, a sun in one of the top corners, a cloud in the other with rain falling and arrows in a circle from each drawing to the next. Write evaporation, condensation and precipitation if you’d like.
- Fill the bag with water up to the waves line. Mix in food coloring.
- Seal the bag closed with a bit of air still inside.
- Use heavy duty tape to tape the bag to a window that receives direct sunlight.
- Check on the water cycle bag a couple times each day to watch the cycle occur. You’ll see cloudiness inside the bag representing evaporation. When bullets of water start to form and fall, condensation and precipitation has occurred.
Weather Fix Wednesday: Lesson 5 will be released on May 6, 2020 at 1 p.m. The topic will be the Bernoulli Principle.