Water and Energy Cycle

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Water and  Energy Cycle

NASA Water and Energy Cycle

The Water and Energy Cycle Focus Area studies the distribution, transport and transformation of water and energy within the Earth System. Since solar energy drives the water cycle and energy exchanges are modulated by the interaction of water with radiation, the energy cycle and the water cycle are intimately entwined.

The long – term goal of this focus area is to enable improved predictions of the global water and energy cycles. This key goal requires not only documenting and predicting means and trends in the rate of the Earth’s water and energy cycling as well as predicting changes in the frequency and intensity of related meteorological and hydrologic events such as floods and droughts.

In the past decade NASA’s water and energy research projects have yielded significant advances in our understanding of key Earth system science processes. For example, we have been able to improve rainfall quantification, as well as greatly improve hurricane prediction capability. However, many issues remain to be resolved.

In the next decade this focus area will move us toward balancing the water budget at global and regional spatial scales, provide global observation capability of precipitation over the day’s cycle and important land surface quantities such as soil moisture and snow quantity at mesoscale resolution. We are working on improving cloud – resolving models for use in climate models. We will gain knowledge of the major influences on variability in the water and energy cycles.

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Water Cycle

Water can exist either as a solid ( ice ), a liquid ( water ), or a gas ( water vapor ). Water on the on surface of Earth is constantly changing between these three states. Ice can change to become water or water vapor. Water can change to become ice or water vapor. Water vapor can change to become ice or water. These continuous changes in state create a cycle of repeating events.

Water continually circulates between the surface of Earth and its atmosphere in what is called the hydrologic or water cycle. Responding to heat energy from the Sun, water in oceans, lakes, swamps, rivers, plants and even in your body can turn into water vapor. Water vapor in the atmosphere condenses as it cools to form clouds. Once the droplets of condensed water vapor are too heavy to remain in the atmosphere, they fall to Earth as precipitation. Rain, snow, sleet, fog and dew are all forms of precipitation.

The Water and Energy Cycle Focus Area studies the distribution, transport and transformation of water and energy within the Earth System. Since solar energy drives the water cycle and energy exchanges are modulated by the interaction of water with radiation, the energy cycle and the water cycle are intimately entwined.

The long – term goal of this focus area is to enable improved predictions of the global water and energy cycles. This key goal requires not only documenting and predicting means and trends in the rate of the Earth’s water and energy cycling as well as predicting changes in the frequency and intensity of related meteorological and hydrologic events such as floods and droughts.

After the precipitation reaches the surface of Earth, it does one of four things. It can either be absorbed by plants, percolate through the soil to become ground water, run off the surface into streams and rivers becoming surface water and eventually flowing into the oceans, or evaporate.

Water is a major force in the sculpting of Earth’s surface and is an important means of transporting the energy that drives atmospheric circulation. Although water covers three – fourths of the surface of Earth, water represents a relatively small percentage of Earth’s total volume – a, 3 – foot diameter model of Earth would have only one cup of water. Thus, water is actually relatively very scarce.

General Characteristics of Water and Energy Cycles

The large – scale water and energy balances of the Mississippi River basin during the period 1995 – 2000 will be determined and characterized in the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment ( GEWEX ) Continental – Scale International Project ( GCIP ) with high spatial resolution. The normal annual, diurnal, geographic, and vertical variations of surface and atmospheric balances will be defined, as will the major modes of large – scale seasonal to inter annual anomalies. The accuracy of these balances will be assessed at various spatial and temporal scales.

The Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment

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The Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment ( GEWEX ) is an integrated program of research, observations, and science activities ultimately leading to the prediction of global and regional climate change. The International GEWEX Project Office ( IGPO ) is the focal point for the planning and implementation of all GEWEX activities.

The goal of GEWEX is to reproduce and predict, by means of suitable models, the variations of the global hydrological regime, its impact on atmospheric and surface dynamics, and variations in regional hydrological processes and water resources and their response to changes in the environment, such as the increase in greenhouse gases. GEWEX will provide an order of magnitude improvement in the ability to model global precipitation and evaporation, as well as accurate assessment of the sensitivity of atmospheric radiation and clouds to climate change.

During Phase I GEWEX Projects were divided into the three Overlapping Sectors.

  1. GEWEX Radiation Panel ( GRP ) used satellite and ground based sensing over long periods to determine to delineate natural variation and climate changing forces.
  2. GEWEX Modelling and Prediction Panel ( GMPP ) : Model the energy and water budget of the earth and determine the predictability. Apply modeling to determine climate forcing events, or respond to climate forcing events by analysis of predictions.
  3. GEWEX Hydrometeorology Panel ( GHP ) – Modeled and predicted changes in water cycle events on longer time scales ( up to annual ) using intensive regional studies to determine efficacy of data gathering and predictions. The Continental – Scale Experiments ( CSEs ) relied heavily on the following study areas that would eventually form the basis of the and the Coordinated Enhanced Observing Period ( CEOP ).

Phase II, “Full Implementation” ( 2003 – 2012 ) of GEWEX is to “exploit new capabities” developed during phase I such as new satellite information and, increasingly, new models. These include changes in the Earth’s energy budget and water cycle, contribution of processes in climate feedback, causes of natural variability, predicting changes on a seasonal or annual timescales, and how changes impact water resources. Phase II of is designed to be active models that have use to regional resource managers in real time. Some phases, such as the GAME ( GEWEX Asia Monsoon Experiment ) are already completed. GEWEX has become an umbrella program for the coordination of studies and experiments around the world. Reports from the phase I are still being produced and it will be some time before the results of the second phase are available. The experiment is still in progress.

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