Water Cycle Webquest
In early 2014, NASA launched an important satellite that is enabling us to learn more about our home planet. The Global Precipitation Measurement mission (GPM), provides us with the most sophisticated and accurate measurements of global precipitation ever! In this webquest, you will learn a little about this mission, and then will focus on the Earth's water cycle.
In February, 2014, NASA launched the GPM (Global Precipitation Measurement) mission. This Earth-observing satellite is providing us with the most sophisticated and accurate measurements of global precipitation ever. By gathering data from an international fleet of satellites, we are able to measure how much precipitation is falling from the clouds globally and update this information every three hours. In this webquest, you will learn a little about this mission, and then will focus on the Earth’s water cycle.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the data from this mission. You can see an animation that shows last week’s precipitation measurements here. In this animation, you are seeing many things. The color bars at the bottom of the screen tell you how much precipitation was falling per hour, and what type of precipitation it was. You can also see the wind patterns as you watch the direction in which the precipitation is moving across the globe. Pretty fascinating!
The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) is an international satellite mission that provides next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide. Here is an introductory video that provides an overview of why being able to collect this data is so important.
Precipitation is a vital component of how water moves through Earth’s water cycle, connecting the ocean, land and atmosphere. Water evaporates from the surface of the land and oceans, rises and cools, condenses into rain or snow, and falls again to the surface as precipitation. The water falling on land collects in rivers and lakes, soil, and porous layers of rock, and much of it flows back into the oceans.
The cycling of water in and out of the atmosphere is a significant aspect of the weather patterns on Earth. Have you ever thought about the shape of a raindrop? You can find out the actual shape of water droplets here. It is pretty amazing what we are able to learn by combining science and technology!
Scientists study how precipitation moves around the world, how much it rains in local areas, and what kind of rain or snow falls - is it heavy rain from a storm or a just a drizzle? They use what they learn to understand how precipitation impacts streams and rivers, water flowing across the surface of the ground, and groundwater. GPM's frequent and detailed measurements are part of what scientists use to make models of the Earth's water cycle so they can see how it is changing.
In order to really understand our water cycle, we need to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Let’s follow a molecule of water as it makes its way through the water cycle in this short animation.
Scan this article titled “The Water Cycle” to learn a little more. Spend time looking at the diagram at the bottom of this page to answer the questions on the Student Capture Sheet.
Now that you have the feel for how water is able to move through the land, the air, and the oceans, let’s learn more about how it is able to distribute both water and heat as it moves through the water cycle.
The ocean is vital for moving both water and heat energy through the water cycle. Next we will see NASA data sets that have been put into animations and positioned on the globe to help visualize how solar energy drives the water cycle. This video uses many different NASA Earth-observing data to show how water moves through Earth’s systems.
We know that almost everything needs freshwater to survive. Did you also know that we use freshwater to generate electricity, make computer chips, and to produce most of the items we use on a daily basis? Go to this site and poke around to learn more about what freshwater is used for in our everyday lives. You can find out how much water is used in your state as well as find out more about the water in the area that you live in. (This data is only available for the United States on this website)
This video describes how much of Earth’s water is readily available for us to use, and describes the many ways in which water is used in our daily lives.
To finish off this webquest, sit back and enjoy this video that sums up most of what we learned in this webquest.