What is it with the English and their weather? The United Kingdom is essentially a " maritime climate", this is what comes from being a small island at one side of the Atlantic ocean with a large continent (Europe) adjacent to us. We do seem to get some very peculiar weather and this spring has been no exception. With the cricket season about to start and the football season coming to a close, last month proved to be one of the wettest on record for some parts of the country, yet one of the lessons on record for southern England, with fears of a prolonged Drought. Ironically, last year some parts of the England and Wales suffered from flash floods. A few years ago it was South Yorkshire that got the worst of the flooding with a number of villages and towns underwater.
One of the more obscure benefits of these floods to us palaeontologists is that flash floods erodes river channels and this can lead to the emergence of more dinosaur fossil material for us to study.
The Hydrological Cycle
With all this rain everywhere, you might think that planet Earth has suddenly started to produce more water, but this is not the case. The amount of water we have on this planet is just about fixed, water may change its state but this planet only has a finite amount. If you pour yourself a glass of water and sit it on the table in front of you, that water in your glass could have been part of an ocean a little over a week ago. It may have fallen as rain, just a couple of days before it found its way into your glass, but the water itself is actually as old as the planet. The same water that you see before you could have made up part of a shallow rock pool that stranded Trilobites in the Ordovician 500 million years ago. It may have formed part of a thunderstorm that caused a herd of Plateosaurs to stampede in the late Triassic, it might even have been drunk by a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Water gets Recycled
The water we have recycled, this is what we call the "Water Cycle", water is evaporated (or transpirated by plants as they lose water) and forms water vapor. The water vapor in the air gets cold and forms clouds – this is called condensation. You can see condensation on windows in the morning when the water vapor hits the cold window glass and turns back into liquid.
The clouds became fitted with water, so that they can not hold anymore and the water falls out back down to earth as rain, sleet, hail of snow. The water may fall into or run off into oceans, lakes or rivers or get absorbed by the land into the "groundwater", to be drunk by plants and trees or it will eventually under several natural processes, mainly gravity, find its way back to the sea – and the process starts all over again. One of the fascinating speculations about the large long-necked dinosaurs such as the Brachiosaurs for example, is that in thunder storms these huge animals may have been the largest organisms in open, tree-less environments and therefore in danger of being stuck by lightning – fried dinosaur anyone?
Next time you get in a shower, or pour yourself a glass of water consider the hydrological cycle and the fact that you are not the first person to have come into contact with that particular amount of H2O, it may have been drunk by a dinosaur .
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