What is the hydrosphere

Water is a very present resource in our lives: we use it not only in our homes and workplaces, but it is also essential for industry and agriculture. Having quality water is important for society and the environment. The set of water on our planet is known as the hydrosphere and it is found in different states in nature: solid, liquid and gaseous or vapor.

What is the hydrosphere – definition

To explain the definition of hydrosphere , we will start with the literal meaning or its etiology. The word “hydrosphere” derives from the lexemes “hydro-“, water, and “-sphera”, or sphere, of Greek origin. Therefore, the meaning of hydrosphere , literally, is “water sphere”.

The hydrosphere is a part of the biosphere that is defined as the set of waters on the planet . This includes not only surface water in seas and oceans, rivers and lakes, but also groundwater , ice accumulated at the poles and mountain ranges, and water that circulates through the troposphere as vapor.

Hydrosphere characteristics

These are some of the main characteristics of the hydrosphere :

  • It is in constant physical-chemical transformation.
  • It constantly interacts with the earth’s crust and modifies its structure.
  • It is a fundamental part of ecosystems, both terrestrial and marine.
  • It is essential for all forms of life.
  • Only a small percentage is suitable for human consumption and other species.

Origin of the hydrosphere

During the earth’s formation the materials were in liquid and gaseous states. Specifically, the water that was available was in the form of steam. As the earth’s crust cooled, the water in the form of steam condensed to form large pools of liquid water, and froze to form large expanses of ice. A part remained in the atmosphere.

This is, roughly, how the first water deposits were formed . However, we know that water has undergone great transformations throughout the history of the earth. On the one hand, water is in constant circulation and transformation thanks to the so-called “water cycle”. Furthermore, due to different climatic changes, the proportions of ice, liquid water and steam have varied greatly. The dissolution load of salts and other substances have also been modified according to the location and characteristics of the terrain. The area they occupy also varies depending on the dynamics of the earth.

But beyond the physical-chemical and geological transformations, the different living organisms have also involved a great transformation of the Earth’s hydrosphere : from the contribution of organic matter to the transformation of its physical characteristics, as occurs in large forest areas. . Special mention to the anthropogenic, that is to say, human action, which has led to such dramatic transformations as the channeling of water, its purification or pollution (the latter pre-eminent) and, ultimately, its physical state due to recent climate change.

Composition of the hydrosphere

In summary, the composition of the hydrosphere is as follows:

  • Solid water: this includes the water contained at the poles and in alpine snows and glaciers. Floating ice surfaces are known as “ice floes”, and the whole of the water in solid state is called the “cryosphere”.
  • Water in a liquid state: here we can fundamentally distinguish two categories, fresh water and salt water. Within the category of fresh water we find rivers, lakes, ponds, ponds, runoff, channeled water and, not least, the water stored below the water table in the form of groundwater. Salt water is found in seas and oceans. Although it represents a residual percentage, water in a liquid state is also contained within living beings.
  • Water in a gaseous state: the atmosphere always has a certain composition of water, which varies depending on the location, the time of year, etc.

The hydrosphere is made up of a total of approximately 1.4 billion km 3 of water. This amount of water is distributed on Earth in this way:

  • 97% in seas and oceans.
  • 2.5% in the form of fresh water.
  • The remaining 0.5% is distributed among the rest of the locations.

The water cycle – brief explanation

The water cycle is made up of several phases:

  1. Evapotranspiration: evaporation occurs both in large areas of water and in tracts of land. In addition, the vegetation cover causes transpiration, the emission of water into the atmosphere by virtue of its metabolic cycles. The combination of both is known as evapotranspiration.
  2. Precipitation: the water emitted into the atmosphere condenses and falls as precipitation to the earth’s surface. This precipitation can occur in a solid form, such as snow or ice, which can be stored in deposits or undergo fusion to a liquid state. Precipitation can also fall as rain.
  3. Runoff: these last two processes give rise to runoff phenomena, or water circulation over the earth’s surface, where they give rise to erosive phenomena.

Hydrosphere pollution

The hydrosphere can be contaminated by many different components such as:

  • Chemical compounds such as oils and other solvents.
  • Heavy metals .
  • Plastics and microplastics .
  • Compounds with biological actions.
  • Organic material.

Each of these elements generates a particular problem that adds to the contamination of the hydrosphere or of the water and that must be studied carefully. However, all of them contribute to the global deterioration of the hydrosphere , with harmful effects on ecosystems and people’s health.

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