Let’s take a ride through the layers of our atmosphere

KOIN 6 Weather Kids

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – I know that when you look up in the sky you may be wondering what exactly is going on up there. You’ve probably heard of the word atmosphere, but you may not know all the layers to it and what the purpose of each layer is.

Today we will imagine a spaceship blasting off and traveling through the different layers of the atmosphere. We will learn what happens to the temperature and what each section’s main job is in relation to our ability to live on a small little layer at the surface of our beautiful planet. You will have to digest the photo below and then compare the sections with the information.

Weekend Meteorologist Joseph Dames

TROPOSPHERE- Let us start with the layer of the atmosphere that nearly contains all the weather we experience! The troposphere is a stretch from the surface up to about 7 miles or 36,000 feet. This is the layer that we are most familiar with and if you’re riding in an airplane, you’re cruising in this layer with or above the clouds. The word troposphere is based on the Greek word “tropein,” which means to turn or change. That is a great name for this layer of the atmosphere, right? Now the temperatures will decrease with heigh until it reaches what is considered the tropopause, which is the boundary separating the troposphere and our next layer. Here the temperature generally remains constant with height. The troposphere has all the perfect ingredients for us to be able to be outside and be part of our planet. It’s mostly built of nitrogen and oxygen, with additional gases that keep the world operating. One gas that is evident, is water vapor (H20), which we’ve learned in previous lessons. It’s the changes in water vapor that brings us precipitation and more.

STRATOSPHERE – Next up, is what is called the stratosphere, which you can find from around 7 miles to 30 miles. Unlike the troposphere, the temperature actually increases in this layer of the atmosphere as you increase in height. Which is represented by the red line in the photo. Although the temperature does increase with height, it’s still really cold. With warming, it tends to stop the vertical growth from the troposphere from encroaching the stratosphere. What is important in the stratosphere? This is where the ozone layer lives and that is the reason that the temperatures warm as you increase with height. It absorbs energy and that energy warms up the stratosphere. It also protects us from ultraviolet solar energy. We then reach the stratopause which is the layer that separates the stratosphere from what is just “above” it.

MESOSPHERE- The fancy word just to the side of this sentence, the mesosphere is our next layer of the atmosphere. This is a section from about 31 miles to 53 miles up in the atmosphere. You can think of the mesosphere as the middle sphere! The air at this level is considered to be “thin,” meaning you wouldn’t be able to survive like you can at the surface. The atmospheric pressure is equally very low and the majority of the atmosphere’s molecules are below this level. It is a very cold layer that doesn’t have much of any ozone to absorb energy. Temperatures take a gigantic drop in this layer and it becomes extremely cold. Potentially seeing temperatures down to about -130°F. What is the duty of the mesosphere? Well, you could say it is the layer that protects us from meteors! That is right, when meteors enter our atmosphere, the gases that are in the mesosphere can create enough heat to burn up most meteors from making it much further. This is accomplished with the process of friction. NEAT!

THERMOSPHERE- Finally, let’s pretend we are on our way out in our spaceship and we are nearing the outside of Earth’s atmosphere. You may start to feel a bit warmer! This is the layer of the atmosphere that is hot, which is what the word “thermo” represents. How does that work? Well, scientists have found that the thermosphere possesses oxygen molecules that absorb energy from solar rays. The solar rays that are absorbed keeps everything warm. This is the thickest layer of the atmosphere and can reach extreme temperatures. Also, a cool fact, there aren’t enough molecules for sound waves to travel. WHOA- Lastly, this is where the International Space Station exists and some satellites.

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