What happens to the gravitational potential energy when water at the top of a waterfall falls to the pool below?
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The law of conservation of energy states: “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed but it can be converted into other forms of energy".
This law applies to any closed, isolated system.
The amount of energy at the top of the waterfall and the energy in the pool of the water must be the same, it can just change its form.
At the top of the waterfall the water initially possesses gravitational potential energy.
As the water falls into the pool, this energy gets converted into kinetic energy. When the water hits the pool, some of the kinetic energy’ gets transferred to the water in the pool and as a result, the water splashes creating water waves and the remaining energy will get converted to sound energy that is the roar sound we hear at the water falls and heat energy that arises from the frictional forces between the falling water and the water in the pool.
The gravitational potential energy changes its form first to the kinetic energy and then this kinetic energy changes its form to sound energy and heat energy.