The Water Cycle
This unit introduces the hydrosphere as one of the components of the Earth system. It examines the processes and reserviors in the water cycle and the Earth's water budget. See the unit on the Elements of Weather for more about water and humidity in the Earth's atmosphere.

Workshop Presentations

PowerPoint Click to download the MS Powerpoint file (38.4 Mbytes).

PDF Click to view or download the presentation in PDF (2.2Mbytes).

HTML Click to view the presentation in html.

Online Lecture Click here to view a streaming lecture about the water cycle. You can navigate from forward and backward in the slides by using the arrow keys on your keyboard. (coming soon)

Classroom Activities

Evaporation and Condensation. In this activity, students examine a model for precipitation on Earth using a simple distallation experiment. In this activity, salty water evaporates from a bowl and the water vapor condenses on plastic wrap and drips (model for precipitation) into a cup. Students examine how water can be moved from one location to another and that evaporation and precipitation on Earth results the tranformation of salt water (ocean water) to fresh water. Note that the linked documents are teacher instructions (not student data sheets). This activity can be done in small groups or as a large class demonstration. This activity may be appropriate for elementary and middle school students. PDF Word Document

The Earth's Water Budget. In this paper and pencil activity, students examine Earth's water reservoirs and the processes responsible for moving water from one to another. This activity involves calculating the relative amounts of water in each reservoir and rates of some of the exchange mechanisms. This activity may be more appropriate for high school students and adult learning (teacher professional development).

Online Video and Media Resources

Misconceptions about Temperature This short video explains why the perceived temperatures of two objects may seem different (due to thermal conductivity) even though they are at the same temperature. Veritasium.

What the Fahrenheit?! This short video describes the history and development of the fahrenheit scale for temperature. Veritasium

Celsius Didn't Invent Celsius This video discusses the history of the Celsius scale. Veritasium.

Misconceptions about Heat This short video examines why different objects with the same temperature may feel like they have different temperatures. Veritasium.

States of Matter This video discusses the different states of matter (vapor, liquid and solid) including the differences in the motions of molecules and the distances between them.

NASA Eartth Observatory This website contains great articles, imagery, and animations. The links below are to animated global maps illustrating weather phenomena.

Useful Websites

National Oceanograpic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) http://www.noaa.gov/ This federal agency is focused on the conditions of the atmosphere and oceans. NOAA conducts reseearch and provides data on oceans, weather, climate, fisheries, and aviation.

National Weather Service http://www.weather.gov/ The NWS provides weather, water, and climate data, forecasts and warnings.The site provides current conditions and information on current weather hazards and floods.

Unisys Weather http://weather.unisys.com/ This site provides graphical weather information. Much of it is highly technical, but the archive contains great information on hurricanes and satellite imagery.

Weather Underground https://www.wunderground.com/ The Weather Underground is a network that provides weather data. Of particular interest is the data on historical weather where you can look up the weather data for locations around the globe.

Wind History http://windhistory.com The Wind History site has historic wind data for the locations around the world (most are in North America). It includes an interactive map with animations of wind roses for many locations.

AirNow https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.main This interactive site gives real time air quality data for any location in the U.S.

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer. Sunlight warms Earth's surface. (K-PS3-1), (K-PS3-2).
ESS2.D: Weather and Climate. Weather is the combination of sunlight, wind, snow or rain, and temperature in a particular region at a particular time. People measure these conditions to describe and record the weather and to notice patterns over time. (K-ESS2-1).

Grade 2
PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter. Different kinds of matter exist and many of them can be either solid or liquid, depending on temperature. Matter can be described and classified by its observable properties. (2-PS1-1)
PS1.B: Chemical Reactions. Heating or cooling a substance may cause changes that can be observed. Sometimes these changes are reversible, and sometimes they are not. (2-PS1-4)

Grade 3
ESS2.D: Weather and Climate.
Scientists record patterns of the weather across different times and areas so that they can make predictions about what kind of weather might happen next. (3-ESS2-1)
Climate describes a range of an area's typical weather conditions and the extent to which those conditions vary over years. (3-ESS2-2)

Middle School
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes. The complex patterns of the changes and the movement of water in the atmosphere, determined by winds, landforms, and ocean temperatures and currents, are major determinants of local weather patterns. (MS-ESS2-5).
ESS2.D: Weather and Climate Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns. (MS-ESS2-6) Because these patterns are so complex, weather can only be predicted probabilistically. (MS-ESS2-5).
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy. The term "heat" as used in everyday language refers both to thermal energy (the motion of atoms or molecules within a substance) and the transfer of that thermal energy from one object to another. In science, heat is used only for this second meaning; it refers to the energy transferred due to the temperature difference between two objects. (secondary to MS-PS1-4).
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy. Temperature is not a measure of energy; the relationship between the temperature and the total energy of a system depends on the types, states, and amounts of matter present. (MS-PS3-3), (MS-PS3-4)

Common Scientific Misconceptions (from Henriques, 2000 and references therein)

Rain falls out of the sky when the clouds evaporate.

Rain comes from holes in clouds (like salt from a salt shaker).

Rain comes from clouds sweating.

Rain comes from clouds melting.

Clouds are water vapor.

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