Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Everyday Water Cycle

Those who understand weather events to the point of being able to explain them are far more likely to enjoy those events. This statement also applies to a wide spectrum of human knowledge and daily experience. Consider, for example, how we enjoy watching athletic contests. A mother who cheers her son’s touchdown on the football gridiron enjoys the event more if she understands the complex events leading up to the score. Had the coach adjusted to the opposition team’s defensive alignment? Did the quarterback make a good pass? How skillfully did her son avert tackles? In football, as in the science of meteorology, knowledge is an enjoyment enhancer.

Even children may be taught the principles of nature’s many cycles as part of God’s majestic plan for our planet’s operation. In the kitchen, boiled water evaporates, sometimes to condense back to liquid again on a cool pan lid –- the water cycle in miniature. Boiling water uses up heat while condensation requires cooling. Herein lies an interesting irony, but not a contradiction. Our science teachers tell us evaporation is a cooling process, but heat is required for it to occur. That is because when water evaporates from our skin, for example, heat is removed from our skin and we feel cool as a result.

Less often, we hear that condensation is a warming process. When widely spaced water molecules clump back together (condense) to form drops of liquid water, the heat energy of the moving molecules becomes concentrated and some heat energy is given back into the environment. In this way the water cycle results in a just-right exchange of heat energy. Without such a just-right heat exchange process, the delicate, beneficial water cycle process would not function properly for our benefit.

The warming or cooling during evaporation or condensation, or even while water is freezing or melting, is due to the heat gained or lost during the process. It is called latent heat. It is responsible for the cool feeling we experience when we emerge from the swimming pool as well as the updrafts generated as air is warmed by the condensation of water during a summer thunderstorm. Water is a remarkable storehouse of heat. It absorbs and stores great quantities of heat, but it acquires and gives up that heat slowly. The speed of this heat exchange is fine-tuned for the good of earth’s life forms. This phenomenon is only one of hundreds of finely tuned processes without which life would be impossible.

Bible authors did not understand the “scientific” explanations we have discussed in this post concerning water’s behavior. They lived in the pre-scientific age. We can, however, identify with the insights of those authors gained by careful observation and their possession of spiritual inspiration from God. Modern scientists have discovered no scientific “errors” in scripture, but scripture is full of profound insights.

Genesis 8:22 (ESV) provides an outstanding example: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” In this verse there are four important cycles mentioned. Underlying the success of the seedtime and harvest cycle is the water cycle, authored by the Creator who designed cycles for man’s benefit.