Water resides in the atmosphere for approximately 8 to 10 days before falling back to Earth. The presence of water vapor in the atmosphere affects weather and climate in several ways. First, it is the source for all forms of precipitation (such as rain, snow, sleet, and hail). In addition, it serves to regulate Earth's surface temperature by absorbing and reflecting incoming short-wave solar radiation and absorbing Earth's emission of long-wave radiation. Finally, atmospheric water is a source of latent heat that can mobilize large air masses. Although the average volume of atmospheric water is only 0.001% of Earth's total water reserves, its role in climate and weather is substantial for both global and catchment considerations.

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