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Important Properties of Water

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High specific heat is one of five properties of water that is important to life. Specific heat is defined as the heat necessary to raise one gram of water by one degree Celsius. Because water's temperature does not change dramatically when absorbing or losing heat, water can absorb or release exceeding amounts of heat (by breaking and forming hydrogen bonds) without affecting living organisms in the water and at the same time helping terrestrial organisms outside the water live easier. For example, coastal areas are usually cooler than inland areas farther from the ocean. This is because the ocean acts as a water sink and absorbs the heat in the air, making the water warmer and the surrounding temperatures cooler. As a result, people living closer to the ocean have more comfortable living conditions, and fish would practically not be affected because water can take in or give out a lot of heat without changing as much in temperature. It is in this same way that when temperatures are colder, such as in the winter, heat is given off from the water and temperatures become warmer, benefiting those living near the water.

The factors of frozen water are also important properties to life. When ice freezes water molecules expand, making ice less dense than water as a liquid. This benefits living organisms by causing the less dense ice to float above the water, preventing creatures from being crushed by the ice, and also keeping them from freezing as well. Not only does the ice absorb heat making waters cooler, but it also insulates this heat creating a livable habitat for the animals below.

Evaporative cooling and high heat of vaporization are more important properties of water. Evaporation is the conversion of a liquid to a gas, while high heat of vaporization is the heat needed to convert the liquid to a gas. When water is heated, its molecules with the greatest kinetic energy break off and turn to gas. Because the molecules with higher kinetic energy leave, the average kinetic energy of the remaining molecules lowers, causing the water temperature to be cooler. An example of this property of water in life is when humans and animals sweat. Humans and animals sweat to stay cooler by using evaporative cooling to regulate the temperatures of their living bodies. As their higher kinetically energized water molecules break off, their average kinetic energy lowers eventually cooling them down. Aquatic environments use this property of water



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