Monday, December 9, 2013

Episode 191 (12-9-13): The Water Cycle

Click to listen to episode (3:31)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of December 9, 2013.

This week, we take a trip from ocean to land and back again, in a fundamental, life-giving cycle.  Guest host Eli Heilker, a Virginia Tech senior English major who wrote this week’s episode, leads the way, backed up by some appropriate sounds.

[Mr. Heilker:] Water goes through a process called the water cycle, or hydrologic cycle. This cycle involves several processes and phases. Let’s follow some hypothetical water as it goes through these processes and phases.

Energy from sunlight makes water change from liquid to gas, or evaporate [Sound: teakettle] into the atmosphere.  Once aloft, winds can transport water vapor [Sound: wind] over land and over sea. At various points, moist air may cool, and excess water vapor change back from gas to liquid, or condense into clouds. From clouds, water can eventually fall back to earth, or precipitate, [Sound: rain and thunder] as rain, snow, sleet, or hail.

When water hits the ground, it can do three things: first, it can evaporate back into the atmosphere; second, it can run off as surface water [Sound: stream flow], flowing over the land into human-built drains or into lakes, rivers, and streams, ultimately leading to the ocean [Sound: ocean waves]; or third, it can seep into the ground, a process called infiltration [Sound: water seeping into mulch], and become groundwater.

Generally, the least understood part of the water cycle is groundwater, because it’s mostly unseen.  Out of sight, groundwater moves through spaces within sediments and rocks, recharges aquifers, discharges into streams, or gets taken up by plants.  Water in plants can again evaporate, or transpire, from leaves back into the atmosphere.

How does this all fit together?  The many individual processes and phases [Sound: violin] occur all at once and are sometimes chaotic [Sound: orchestra tuning], but overall they combine into a relatively organized cycle [Sound: orchestra finale].

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 12/9/13]

“Water Cycle for Kids” Poster, from U.S. Geological Survey Web site, “The Water Cycle,” at, 12/6/13.

Acknowledgements: The sounds for the violin, orchestra tune-up, and orchestra finale were from recordings made available for public use on (, as follows:

Violin: by Timbre, “remix of 25481__FreqMan__violin_minuet_boccherini_edit_Repair_remix#2.wav”,;

Orchestra tuning: by offthesky, “strings jam 5 - warmup.wav”,;

Orchestra finale: by gelo_papas, “Applause Finale.wav”,

Other sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio.

This episode was designed to support teaching and learning of the following Virginia Science Standards of Learning (January 2010 edition): 3.9, 4.6. 4.9, 6.7, LS.6, and ES.8.

Virginia Water Radio thanks Kevin McGuire of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center for his contribution to this episode.

Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The Hydrologic Cycle—online meteorology guide.”  Online at

Rosenberg, Matt.  “The Hydrologic Cycle.”, online at

Vandas, Stephen J., Thomas C. Winter, and William A. Battaglin.  “Water Basics.”  In Water and the Environment (Alexandria, Va.: American Geological Institute, 2002).

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