What Are the Three Physical States of Water in the Atmosphere?


The atmosphere of the Earth is made up of a number of elements and compounds. One such compound is water. Water can exist in the atmosphere in three states of matter: solid, liquid or gas. Temperature can play a role in the transition of water from one state to another.


  • Water vapor, which is water in a gaseous form, is present in the atmosphere. It accounts for 0.001 percent of the atmosphere and is the result of water evaporating from liquid form on the earth. An example of water vapor you see everyday is steam when you heat up water.


  • In the atmosphere, water exists in liquid form in the form of clouds, which are water droplets light enough to float in the air and the more obvious rain, which occurs when clouds are cooled enough to start precipitation (raining). The water droplets come together and become too heavy to be held by the clouds and fall as rain.


  • The solid form of water in the atmosphere is seen in snow and ice. This occurs when the temperature surrounding the cloud is below 0 degrees Celsius. The droplets are formed in the same way as rain and then fall to the earth as either hail stones or lighter snow flakes.

Water Cycle

  • The water cycle is the transition of water in the atmosphere from one form to the other and explains many of the weather patterns around the world. Water evaporates from the earth and is stored in the atmosphere in clouds, until it goes over land and is transformed back into liquid form where it falls to the earth and the process begins once again.

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