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Hydrologic Cycle

Major Compartments And Fluxes Of The Hydrologic Cycle, Hydrologic Cycle Of A Watershed, Influences Of Human Activities On The Hydrologic Cycle

The hydrologic, or water, cycle is the continuous, interlinked circulation of water among its various compartments in the environment. Hydrologic budgets are analyses of the quantities of water stored, and the rates of transfer into and out of those various compartments.

The most important places in which water occurs are the ocean, glaciers, underground aquifers, surface waters, and the atmosphere. The total amount of water among all of these compartments is a fixed, global quantity. However, water moves readily among its various compartments through the processes of evaporation, precipitation, and surface and subsurface flows. Each of these compartments receives inputs of water and has corresponding outputs, representing a flow-through system. If there are imbalances between inputs and outputs, there can be significant changes in the quantities stored locally or even globally. An example of a local change is the drought that can occur in soil after a long period without replenishment by precipitation. An example of a global change in hydrology is the increasing mass of continental ice that occurs during glacial epochs, an event that can remove so much water from the oceanic compartment that sea level can decline by more than 328 ft (100 m), exposing vast areas of continental shelf for the development of terrestrial ecosystems.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Hydrazones to Incompatibility