An Overview of Climate
The "residence time," or time it takes for a volume of water to cycle-through the system, can vary from a few days in the atmosphere, to a few weeks or months in rivers to 10,000 years or more in icecaps. The time it takes water to cycle through groundwater can vary from weeks and months (shallow aquifers) to hundreds of thousands of years in the case of deep fossil water.
Hydrologic variability, particularly
precipitation, is another key component of climate variability, and a
complicated one at that. At a local and regional level, precipitation
can vary widely depending on geography and numerous other factors. Precipitation
also doesn't necessarily correlate with temperature. There can be hot-dry
periods, hot-wet periods, cold-dry periods and cold-wet periods, and everything
in between. See Looking at the Water Budget for
more on hydrologic variability over the course of a year.
only a small percentage of all of the Earth's water is in the form of
clouds at any given time, clouds play a extremely important role in the
global climate system. Not only do they serve as the vehicle for water
to be conveyed around the world through the atmosphere, but in addition
they play an integral role in the warming or cooling of the climate. Many
climate researchers regard clouds and water vapor as the "wild card"
in terms of current climate research since they can cool the surface by
their shading effect or warm the planet by absorbing sun's radiation.
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