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Cycle that involves the continuous circulation of water in the Earth-atmosphere system. Water is transferred from the oceans through the atmosphere to the continents and back to the oceans by means of evaporation, transpiration, precipitation, interception, infiltration, subterranean percolation, overland flow, runoff, and other complex processes. Although the total amount of water within the cycle remains essentially constant, its distribution among the various processes is continually changing.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hydrologic cycle, visit Britannica.com.