The water cycle, as it is often explained, begins with evaporation.
Have you ever been in the bathroom while mom or dad has had a shower? You know the white smoke, also known as steam, that fills the bathroom? That is one of the simplest ways to explain evaporation. Steam in the bathroom is caused when the water is heated enough for some of it to escape in the air. It is no longer gas but as the air cools, after you turn off the shower, the water begins to turn back into droplets of water.
In the water cycle, the sun, not the hot water, works as the evaporator. The sun heats up the water in oceans, lakes and rivers so that the surface water is warmed enough for it to become steam. Usually, we do not see this steam rising off the water but if the day is cooler you can see it in fog or mist. The heated water that has become a gas starts to rise up into the sky.
At this point, condensation begins and just like the steam in the bathroom, the heated gas begins to cool down the higher up in the sky that it goes. Once it is high enough, the gas turns into droplets of water and clouds are made.
The clouds start off small but as more evaporated water moves up into the cloud and cools down into droplets the cloud gets bigger and heavier.
Once the cloud is very big and very heavy, and it can’t hold any more condensed water, precipitation starts. Precipitation is another word for rain, snow, sleet or hail; any type of water that falls from the sky.
The precipitation falls to the ground and is used to feed plants and other creatures on earth. The water that falls on the ground sinks into the dirt and collects in the ground or reaches underground rivers and streams. Water on the ground can also collect in large puddles, which can sometimes flow back into rivers, lakes and streams.
Precipitation that falls into lakes, rivers and oceans have a much shorter journey when it comes to being collected but regardless of where the water falls, collection is an important part of the water cycle. After collection, evaporation begins again and the water cycle continues on.
It is important to understand that the water cycle continues on. There is no break from one stage to the next and while it is raining over one lake, the sun is warming another lake and the water is evaporating.