Components of the Water Cycle

  • Released Thursday, October 8th, 2009
  • Updated Friday, August 25th, 2023 at 12:00AM
  • ID: 3648

Water regulates climate, storing heat during the day and releasing it at night. Water in the ocean and atmosphere carry heat from the tropics to the poles. The process by which water moves around the earth, from the ocean, to the atmosphere, to the land and back to the ocean is called the water cycle. The animations below each portray a component of the water cycle. All use an identical view and camera motion to allow for easy compositing.

Data for the animation of global sea surface temperature was derived from a model run of ECCO's Ocean General Circulation Model. See for more information on ECCO.

Data for the animation of atmospheric phenomena was created using data from the GEOS-5 atmospheric model on the cubed-sphere, run at 14-km global resolution for 25-days. Variables animated here include evaporation, water vapor and precipitation.

For more information on the GEOS-5 see

For more information on the cubed-sphere work see

All three of these animations are time synchronous throughout the animation to allow cross fades during compositing.

The final animation shown here, a pulsing network of rivers over the continents, represents the flow of water from land back into the ocean, thereby completing the water cycle.

A flat version of these animations can be found in item #3811.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio This is a contribution of the Consortium for Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) funded by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).


This visualization can be found in the following series:

Datasets used in this visualization

GEOS-5 Cubed-Sphere (A.K.A. GEOS-5 Atmospheric Model on the Cubed-Sphere)

The model is the GEOS-5 atmospheric model on the cubed-sphere, run at 14-km global resolution for 30-days. GEOS-5 is described here and the cubed-sphere work is described here

See more visualizations using this data set
Groundwater Resources of the World
Data Compilation BGR and UNESCO
Sea Surface Temperature
Model ECCO

Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details, nor the data sets themselves on our site.