Phenomena

Rivers in the Sky

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The water cycle is quite a bit more complicated than what we learn in elementary school, and the environment around us contributes to that cycle in invisible but vital ways. In this video, Joe Hanson of It’s Okay to Be Smart pulls back the veil on this in the context of the Amazon river basin and how the Amazon rainforest itself creates an atmospheric river that carries more water than its namesake river.

Trees release water into the air almost constantly as they transpire. And to trigger that water to fall as rain, trees can release other compounds that serve as a nucleus around which raindrops can form. The condensing raindrops form clouds, which lower the air pressure and create winds, thereby creating an atmospheric river flowing from the Atlantic back up the Amazon River. That stream carries rain that feeds the rainforest and the Amazon River, continuing the cycle. (Video and image credit: It’s Okay to Be Smart)

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