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Lichen partnerships challenged by changes in the Northwoods

Lichen, which people may think of as a single organism, is in fact a community of several species that depend on each other for survival. Lichen symbiosis includes at least one fungus and one alga, along with other fungi ...

Astronomers find three potential super-Earths around nearby star

Astronomers have discovered three potential "super-Earth" exoplanets orbiting a relatively nearby orange dwarf star. This groundbreaking find was made by an international team of researchers led by Dr. Shweta Dalal from the ...

New research finds lake under Mars ice cap unlikely

Cornell University researchers have provided a simple and comprehensive—if less dramatic—explanation for bright radar reflections initially interpreted as liquid water beneath the ice cap on Mars' south pole.

Reconnaissance of potentially habitable worlds with Webb

Exoplanets are common in our galaxy, and some even orbit in the so-called habitable zone of their star. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has been busy observing a few of these small, potentially habitable planets, and astronomers ...

Exploring extremes in the search for life on Mars

People might assume the search for life on Mars ended when NASA's first rovers sent back images of the planet's barren, inhospitable surface. However, as scientists broaden their understanding of the extreme conditions in ...

TRAPPIST-1 outer planets likely have water, research suggests

The TRAPPIST-1 solar system generated a swell of interest when it was observed several years ago. In 2016, astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) at La Silla Observatory in Chile ...

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Water

Water is a ubiquitous chemical substance, composed of hydrogen and oxygen, that is essential for the survival of many known forms of life. In typical usage, water refers only to its liquid form or state, but the substance also has a solid state, ice, and a gaseous state, water vapor or steam. Water covers 71% of the Earth's surface. On Earth, it is found mostly in oceans and other large water bodies, with 1.6% of water below ground in aquifers and 0.001% in the air as vapor, clouds (formed of solid and liquid water particles suspended in air), and precipitation. Saltwater oceans hold 97% of surface water, glaciers and polar ice caps 2.4%, and other land surface water such as rivers, lakes and ponds 0.6%. A very small amount of the Earth's water is contained within biological bodies and manufactured products. Other water is trapped in ice caps, glaciers, aquifers, or in lakes, sometimes providing fresh water for life on land.

Water moves continually through a cycle of evaporation or transpiration (evapotranspiration), precipitation, and runoff, usually reaching the sea. Winds carry water vapor over land at the same rate as runoff into the sea. Over land, evaporation and transpiration contribute to the precipitation over land.

Clean, fresh drinking water is essential to human and other lifeforms. Access to safe drinking water has improved steadily and substantially over the last decades in almost every part of the world. There is a clear correlation between access to safe water and GDP per capita. However, some observers have estimated that by 2025 more than half of the world population will be facing water-based vulnerability. Water plays an important role in the world economy, as it functions as a solvent for a wide variety of chemical substances and facilitates industrial cooling and transportation. Approximately 70 percent of freshwater is consumed by agriculture.

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