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What happens to water when it evaporates?
Answered by HowStuffWorks
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  1. When water evaporates, it appears to simply vanish; however, this is far from the truth. As water evaporates, it rises into the atmosphere above, eventually condensing into clouds. These clouds continue to absorb moisture until they become too heavy. Eventually, the moisture falls from the clouds to the ground in the form of precipitation, and the cycle repeats. This cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation is known as the hydrologic cycle, which ensures that no water is ever actually lost, only changed to a different form.

    Evaporation is not only important to climate cycles or to clear up puddles on the sidewalk after a spring rain. It also helps to cool the Earth. If you think of the Earth as one giant long-distance runner who has to sweat to keep cool on a daily marathon, you understand why evaporation is important to our planet. Most of the water that makes rises into the atmosphere to form clouds and eventually become rain and other forms of precipitation comes from oceans [source: USGS]. But some makes its way there from plants and soil. Sometimes snow and ice on the ground evaporate without first melting, in a process called sublimation.

    It's important to remember that evaporation is part of a cycle and therefore water is not completely lost when it evaporates. Sure, some of the water your sprinklers spray on your plants and grass will evaporate and become part of the cycle. On the other hand, efficient use of water means minimizing evaporation -- unless you can gather several thousand neighbors and see if you really have the power to seed the clouds to create rain with your city's water supply. It's not the best use of your water resources -- or time. When you water your lawn in low wind, low heat and less sun, you make sure that more of the water goes where you intend it to go -- into the roots of your grass and plants. Watering during the middle of the day increases evaporation and decreases watering efficiency. And overwatering wastes water and the sprinkler runoff washes all sorts of extra junk like lawn chemicals down storm drains [source: EPA].

    The good news is that most of the ocean water that evaporates makes its way back to our seas. Only about 10 percent of the water that evaporates from Earth's oceans falls as rain over land; the rest goes right back to the ocean [source: Water Cycle].

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