What is Water – The Hydrological Cycle: Climate Change’s influence on Water Cycle (Videos)

The concept of the hydrological (water) cycle is core to understanding how water as a whole behaves. The videos below demonstrate aspects of the water cycle as well as how climate change influences its behavior. One thing I am hoping that you take away from this section is that the water cycle may on the surface seem like a perfectly balanced system – which is how it is portrayed in a static diagram – but it is anything but static Think of the image on the previous page as a “time slice” – or a single frame in a movie. A change in one part of the system causes the other parts of the system to react to keep everything in balance. Heating up the atmosphere drives certain behaviors, as would cooling. It’s complex and messy, which provides some context for the final video in the list. Understanding this simple cycle takes a lot of research and partnerships. Taking it a step further and learning how to adapt to changes takes a lot of research and partnerships.

The next page has a short quiz – created in the form of a “graded survey” (meaning that you can see the answers once you have submitted your quiz). Feel free to open the quiz in a separate window, pause the video, and answer questions while the videos are playing if you find that helpful. You are not being “graded” for getting correct answers. As you will see once you submit the quiz the answers are all provided, along with additional context as applicable. The quiz is meant to help reinforce important components of the videos that relate to how the water cycle provides a framework for understanding climate change’s impact on our water security and seek ways to adapt in accordance with changes.

About the movies:

  • The Water Cycle (National Science Foundation Video), summarizes the information provided in the previous reading in video format. The video covers aspects of the water cycle and highlights water “stores” and flows between them. These aspects are critical in building a deeper appreciation and understanding of how water is intrinsically connected to food, and indeed, life.

  • The Water Cycle in a Warming Climate. This short video digs into several processes explained in the previous video that are at the heart of the changes driven by a warming climate. One word to note in this video is the concept of “rate” – this ties back to the time connection I mentioned in the introduction. Rate implies something that is happening over a time interval. If the evaporation rate of water increases – what happens? (This video can be seen in a page that provides additional context[1]).

  • Rising Tides: Understanding Sea Level Rise is a NASA-produced video that explains sea level rise, a key impact of a warming climate’s impact that result from perturbing the water cycle. Note that are two mechanisms explained – both have to do with volume of water. This video is embedded in an article that describes these processes further[2].

  • To What Degree – The Water Cycle (first 5 videos of play list, total of 5 minutes, 22 seconds). This is.a NASA generated playlist that explores aspects of the impact of climate change on the water cycle. Please take a look at the first 5 videos only (you can watch all, but it is not required). The videos successively explore key impacts related to the properties of water, drought and land cover changes. These videos foreshadow module 3, and will provide some good background to consider in this modules readings. The video is set to “auto-play”, so you can stop after the fifth one. Apologies – but there will be at least one ad – which can be skipped.

  • Global Water Futures: Water Security for Canadians. We know that climate change is causing catastrophic disruptions to the Canadian water supply, including our food supply and hence, our people and our economy. The North (Canada) is disproportionately affected by climate change and introduces questions such as how will we secure a safe future for humanity. This video discusses the Global Water Futures) Project, which is a significant research effort undertaken by four Universities working with a wide range of partners in multiple sectors. What you will see are “snippets” of information about some of the projects. What I would like you to note is the complexity of the issues surrounding water management in the context of climate change. I’m hoping that you gain an appreciation for the kinds of questions that are being asked, the range of partnerships needed to address “wicked problems”.

  1.  The video, Hydrological Cycle in a Warming Climate" may be seen in context in the Watershed Institute's post: How Is Climate Change Affecting Water? 
  2. The video, Rising Tides: Understanding Sea Level Rise, may be seen in context at the page "Sea Level Change Data Pathfinder". If this is a subject that interests you, you can dig deeper into the science and some of the complexities of sea level rise through The Science of Earth's Rising Seas published at the Jet Propulsion Lab. The JPL link has two excellent videos.


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Food & Water Security by Dr. Joanne Taylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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