Water is everywhere and in everything. We grow in water as fetuses. Water drives our energy, commerce, and food. It shapes the earth and controls the weather. Here are some other interesting facts about water.
It is one of the few substances that expands when it freezes.
Water expands by up to 9-10 percent when it freezes. It actually contracts when cooling until about 4 degrees Celsius, when it begins to expand as the molecules spread out. This expansion of ice helps drive natural erosion in geologic settings, where water percolates into cracks, freezes and inflates, and cleaves off pieces of rock. You can see this happening if you go to the mountains and see fractures in rocks and piles of broken rock below peaks and cliffs.
It is a universal solvent.
Water dissolves more substances than any other liquid on Earth, though it some cases it may take longer than others. Its molecules are made up of negatively charged oxygen and positively charged hydrogen. This mix of positive and negative allows water to be attracted to different types of molecules and can disrupt the attraction that holds those molecules together, causing the substance to dissolve. You can also see this happening in nature when you see the pits and rough surfaces water creates on rocks.
There is a lot of it on the planet, but it’s not all accessible.
Up to 71 percent of Earth is water. Of that, around 96.5 percent is contained within the planet’s oceans. Only around three percent of our water is fresh, and of that, only 0.5 percent is available for drinking. The rest of our fresh water is generally held within glaciers, hangs in the atmosphere, or is trapped underground. This is one reason why it’s important for us all to conserve and recycle our water.
It drives explosive volcanic eruptions.
Scientists are discovering that magma contains more water than first believed. Studies are ongoing, but they know for certain that water contained within said magma causes explosions. Volcanologists refer to substances that drive eruptions as volatiles because of their nature. Water, it turns out, is one of the most important. Most of this water gets there through subduction, which occurs at the borders of tectonic plates within the ocean. All that water has to go somewhere, and it often ends up in the magma supplies of explosive arc volcanoes.
It is considered a greenhouse gas.
Water vapor acts the same as methane and carbon dioxide on the atmosphere, it traps heat on the planet in the greenhouse effect. In fact, it is the planet’s most abundant of said gases and accounts for up to fifty percent of the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. As the planet warms, thanks to anthropogenic climate change, more water vapor is being released into the atmosphere and causing more warming in what geographers call a “positive feedback loop.” There are a lot of positive feedback loops associated with climate change, which is beginning to alarm global scientists.
The human body contains a lot.
Up to 60 percent of an adult male human body is made of water, while the average for a female body is around 55 percent. Due to numerous factors, such as body type and fat levels, the water content of the human body can range from 45 to 75 percent water. Babies have the most, hovering somewhere around 74 percent, but this content drops with age.
There is clear evidence of it on Mars.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected strange color-changing streaks on the mountains of Mars in 2015. These streaks tended to darken or lighten depending on the season and temperature of the planet. They are said to represent hydrated salts, which change color as subsurface water percolates to the surface with the changing of the year. A radar study conducted between 2012 and 2015 also discovered a large lake of water under the southern polar ice cap. These discoveries have interesting implications for the possibility of colonization in the future.
A bad estimate is why the Colorado River is always short of it.
Water usage on the Colorado River is determined by the 1922 Colorado River Compact, which dictates which states (and Mexico) can use certain amounts of water from the stream. The problem with this? The compact’s water levels were determined by an unusually wet period along the river, which was far outside it’s normal flow. This has caused chronic water shortages for the cities that depend on this source. It’s only been exacerbated by the drying effects of climate change in recent years.
There’s a lot of it in the mantle.
Remember what I said about subduction and water? There has been much speculation among scientists over the years concerning water contained within the Earth’s interior. Recent seismic surveys have not only confirmed water’s presence in the mantle, but there is a lot more contained there than first expected. Estimates put the level of water within this layer of the Earth at around three times greater than what is contained within our oceans. Most of this water is bound within minerals, which act as sponges to attract and hold it. The water is only released with melting and, you guessed it, volcanic eruptions.
It regulates coastal climates.
If you’ve noticed, most coastal climates are mild and even, with very few fluctuations either in the cold or hot direction. This is far different from even nearby climates within desert and inland areas. This is because water within the ocean and the nearby air acts as a heat absorber. The absorbed heat keeps the coast cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than in nearby areas. If you wish to observe this effect for yourself, just compare the temperature records for a year in Santa Cruz, California, to those in the Central Valley. You will see quite a difference.
The effects of climate change have been a hot topic of discussion (no pun intended) for the last several years. While we are working to save our air, we must not forget about our limited water supply. IPCC projections consistently point to increased droughts and water shortages, which we are already seeing in many areas on the planet. Unfortunately, a lot of solutions to the climate change conundrum being offered today use large amounts of water (i.e. nuclear, geothermal, and flash-steam solar power, the production of lithium batteries). There are solutions out there for both reduced carbon emissions and conservation of water, we just have to use them. In our panic to stop climate change, we should not forsake our water for our air, or it’s not going to matter if we stop it or not. Just think about that carefully.
Science Facts- www.sciencefacts.net
United States Geological Survey- www.usgs.gov
United States Bureau of Reclamation- www.usbr.gov
Washington University in St. Louis- www.wustl.edu
Medical News Today- www.medicalnewstoday.com
University of Nevada, Reno- www.unr.edu
Brookhaven National Laboratory- www.bnl.gov