Water cycle

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A diagram of the full water cycle

The water cycle is the cycle that water goes through on Earth. Water is essential for life as we know it. It is present throughout the Solar System, and was part of the Earth from its formation. There are five main stages of the water cycle:

  1. The heat coming from the Sun causes the Earth's water to evaporate into water vapor, which then collects into clouds. Some water rises into the atmosphere directly from plants (transpiration).
  2. The water in the clouds gets exposed to cooler temperatures; this makes it become liquid again (condensation).
  3. The water falls from the sky as rain, snow, sleet or hail (precipitation).
  4. The water sinks into the surface and also collects into lakes, oceans, or aquifers. It evaporates again and continues the cycle. Some water may go underground and become groundwater (percolation)