Earth's Water Cycle

  • Released Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:52PM

Water is the fundamental ingredient for life on Earth. Looking at our Earth from space, with its vast and deep ocean, it appears as though there is an abundance of water for our use. However, only a small portion of Earth's water is accessible for our needs. How much fresh water exists and where it is stored affects us all. This animation uses Earth science data from a variety of sensors on NASA Earth observing satellites as well as cartoons to describe Earth's water cycle and the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth.

Sensors on a suite of NASA satellites observe and measure water on land, in the ocean and in the atmosphere. These measurements are important to understanding the availability and distribution of Earth's water — vital to life and vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on a growing world population.

NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information Systems (EOSDIS)
EOSDIS is a distributed system of twelve data centers and science investigator processing systems. EOSDIS processes, archives, and distributes data from Earth observing satellites, field campaigns, airborne sensors, and related Earth science programs. These data enable the study of Earth from space to advance scientific understanding.

For questions, please contact

For More Information


Sponsored by Earth Science Data and Information System Project/NASA GSFC

Joint project between NASA GSFC and NASA JPL

Carol Boquist, NASA GSFC
Jennifer Brennan, Adnet Systems Inc., NASA GSFC
Dr. Brian Krupp, Adnet Systems Inc., NASA GSFC
Dr. Eric M. De Jong, NASA JPL
Barbara McGuffie, NASA JPL

Science Advisors:
Dr. Scott Braun, NASA GSFC
Dr. Arthur Hou, NASA GSFC
Dr. Matthew Rodell, NASA GSFC
Jessica Hausman, NASA JPL
David Moroni, NASA JPL
Dr. Jorge Vazquez, NASA JPL
Dr. Jared Entin, NASA HQ
Dr. Eric Lindstrom, NASA HQ

Robert Baldwin, Studio Orb

Raymond A. Hearn

Erica Drezek, Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc., NASA GSFC

Special Thanks:
Paul Andres,Jason Craig and Michael Stetson,
Solar System Visualization Project, NASA JPL
Heather K. Dennis, Studio Orb
Dr. Henry Liu, NASA GSFC Dr. Matthew Smith, NASA Global Hydrology Resource Center
Dr. Wendy Tang, NASA JPL
M. Sara Tweedie, Tweedie & Assoc.

Data sets available through:
NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) Data Centers

Global Hydrology Resource Center Distributed Active Archive Center (GHRC DAAC)
GOES data distributed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Goddard Earth Science Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC)
AIRS imagery created using the NASA GES DISC Giovanni Tool


MODIS Level-1 Atmosphere Archive and Distribution System (MODAPS LAADS)

National Snow and Ice Data Center DAAC (NSIDC DAAC)

Ocean Biology Processing Group (OBPG)

Physical Oceanography DAAC (PO.DAAC)

Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)
Population Density, Natural Hazard Drought Indices and Flood Risk data

Next Generation Blue Marble courtesy:
NASA Earth Observatory


This visualization can be found in the following series:


This visualization originally appeared on the following tapes:
  • Earth's Water Cycle (ID: 2011032)
    Friday, August 3, 2012 at 4:00AM
    Produced by - Tim Carnahan