Water is essential to weather and climate on Earth. The sun supplies energy to Earth in the form of electromagnetic waves. This energy is unevenly distributed over the globe. The atmosphere and ocean transport the excess heat from the tropics to the poles. Much of the heat transported poleward by the atmosphere cannot be measured with a thermometer, but is in the form of latent heat. Solar energy evaporates water from the oceans, the water vapor is transported poleward and when it condenses to form a cloud heat is added to the air.
Water continually cycles through the atmosphere as evidenced by the appearance of clouds and precipitation. The formation of clouds and precipitation only occurs under the correct weather conditions, which depend on the wind and water vapor content of the atmosphere. The ability for water to change phase makes it an important energy source for atmospheric storms.
Heavy precipitation affects our everyday lives by determining what we wear, hindering transportation, influencing the health of our economy, and even affecting our moods. Every day millions of people listen to weather forecasts to determine what to wear and to plan activities. Certain types of precipitation, heavy snows and freezing rain, are a safety concern in for all modes of transportation.
This alcove introduces you to the basics of how clouds form. This alcove is under development, so please visit us again!
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