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condensation

condensation

Condensation is the process where water vapor becomes liquid

Grades

4 - 12+

Subjects

Earth Science, Meteorology, Physics

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Morgan Stanley

Condensation is the process where water vapor becomes liquid. It is the reverse of evaporation, where liquid water becomes a vapor.

Condensation happens one of two ways: Either the air is cooled to its dew point or it becomes so saturated with water vapor that it cannot hold any more water.

Dew Point

Dew point is the temperature at which condensation happens. (Dew is simply condensed water in the atmosphere.) Air temperatures can reach or fall below the dew point naturally, as they often do at night. Thats why lawns, cars, and houses are often coated with water droplets in the morning.

Condensation can also produce water droplets on the outside of soda cans or glasses of cold water. When warm air hits the cold surface, it reaches its dew point and condenses. This leaves droplets of water on the glass or can.

When a pocket of air becomes full of water vapor, clouds form. The point at which condensation starts can be easily viewed in cumulus clouds, which have flat bottoms. Those flat bottoms are where vapor begins to condense into water droplets.

Saturation

Clouds are simply masses of water droplets in the atmosphere. Molecules in water vapor are far apart from one another. As more water vapor collects in clouds, they can become saturated with water vapor. Saturated clouds cannot hold any more water vapor. When clouds are saturated with water vapor, the density, or closeness, of the molecules increases. The vapor condenses and becomes rain.

Cold air holds less water vapor than warm air. This is why warm climates are often more humid than cold ones: Water vapor remains in the air instead of condensing into rain. Cold climates are more likely to have rain, because water vapor condenses more easily there.

Fast Fact

Making Rain
Cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) are microscopic bits of clay, salt, or solid pollutants such as ash from smoke. Water in clouds condenses around these condensation nuclei to form raindrops.

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Writers
Kim Rutledge, Kim Rutledge
Melissa McDaniel, Melissa McDaniel
Santani Teng, Santani Teng
Hilary Hall, Hilary Hall
Tara Ramroop, Tara Ramroop
Erin Sprout, Erin Sprout
Jeff Hunt, Jeff Hunt
Diane Boudreau, Diane Boudreau
Hilary Costa, Hilary Costa
Illustrators
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society,
Tim Gunther, Tim Gunther
Editors
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West, Kara West
Educator Reviewer
Nancy Wynne,
Producer
National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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