Bicol University Gubat Campus Gubat, Sorsogon

Earth's Atmosphere
Prepared by: Chad Lowe V. Villarroya

Prepared for: Prof. Marlyn Padre

Earth's atmosphere The Earth's atmosphere is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention (greenhouse effect), and reducing temperature extremes between day and night. Dry air contains roughly (by volume) 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.038% carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases. Air also contains a variable amount of water vapor, on average around 1%. The atmosphere has a mass of about five quintillion (5x1018) kg, three quarters of which is within about 11 km (6.8 mi; 36,000 ft) of the surface. The atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, with no definite boundary between the atmosphere and outer space. An altitude of 120 km (75 mi) is where atmospheric effects become noticeable during atmospheric reentry of spacecraft. The Kármán line, at 100 km (62 mi), also is often regarded as the boundary between atmosphere and outer space. Composition Air is mainly composed of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon, which together constitute the "major gases" of the atmosphere. The remaining gases often are referred to as "trace gases,"[1] among which are the greenhouse gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Filtered air includes trace amounts of many other chemical compounds. Many natural substances may be present in tiny amounts in an unfiltered air sample, including dust, pollen and spores, sea spray, volcanic ash, and meteoroids. Various industrial pollutants also may be present, such as chlorine (elementary or in compounds), fluorine (in compounds), elemental mercury, and sulfur (in compounds such as sulfur dioxide [SO2]). Composition of dry atmosphere, by volume[2] ppmv: parts per million by volume (note: volume fraction is equal to mole fraction for ideal gas only, Gas Volume Nitrogen (N2) 780,840 ppmv (78.084%) Oxygen (O2) 209,460 ppmv (20.946%) Argon (Ar) 9,340 ppmv (0.9340%) Carbon dioxide (CO2) 383 ppmv (0.0383%) Neon (Ne) 18.18 ppmv (0.001818%) Helium (He) 5.24 ppmv (0.000524%) Methane (CH4) 1.745 ppmv (0.0001745%) Krypton (Kr) 1.14 ppmv (0.000114%) Hydrogen (H2) 0.55 ppmv (0.000055%) Nitrous oxide (N2O) 0.3 ppmv (0.00003%)

Xenon (Xe) 0.09 ppmv (9x10−6%) Ozone (O3) 0.0 to 0.07 ppmv (0% to 7x10−6%) Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) 0.02 ppmv (2x10−6%) Iodine (I) 0.01 ppmv (1x10−6%) Carbon monoxide (CO) 0.1 ppmv Ammonia (NH3) trace Not included in above dry atmosphere: Water vapor (H2O) ~0.40% over full atmosphere, typically 1%-4% at surface Structure of the atmosphere Principal layers Earth's atmosphere can be divided into five main layers. These layers are mainly determined by whether temperature increases or decreases with altitude. From lowest to highest, these layers are: Troposphere The troposphere begins at the surface and extends to between 7 km (23,000 ft) at the poles and 17 km (56,000 ft) at the equator, with some variation due to weather. The troposphere is mostly heated by transfer of energy from the surface, so on average the lowest part of the troposphere is warmest and temperature decreases with altitude. This promotes vertical mixing (hence the origin of its name in the Greek word "τροπή", trope, meaning turn or overturn). The troposphere contains roughly 80%[citation needed] of the mass of the atmosphere. The tropopause is the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere. Stratosphere The stratosphere extends from the tropopause to about 51 km (32 mi; 170,000 ft). Temperature increases with height, which restricts turbulence and mixing. The stratopause, which is the boundary between the stratosphere and mesosphere, typically is at 50 to 55 km (31 to 34 mi; 160,000 to 180,000 ft). The pressure here is 1/1000th sea level. Mesosphere The mesosphere extends from the stratopause to 80–85 km (50–53 mi; 260,000– 280,000 ft). It is the layer where most meteors burn up upon entering the atmosphere. Temperature decreases with height in the mesosphere. The mesopause, the temperature minimum that marks the top of the mesosphere, is the coldest place on Earth and has an average temperature around −100 °C (−148.0 °F; 173.1 K). Thermosphere Temperature increases with height in the thermosphere from the mesopause up to the thermopause, then is constant with height. The temperature of this layer can rise to 1,500 °C (2,730 °F), though the gas molecules are so far apart that temperature in the usual sense is not well defined. The International Space Station orbits in this layer, between 320 and 380 km (200 and 240 mi).

The top of the thermosphere is the bottom of the exosphere, called the exobase. Its height varies with solar activity and ranges from about 350–800 km (220–500 mi; 1,100,000–2,600,000 ft). Exosphere The outermost layer of Earth's atmosphere extends from the exobase upward. Here the particles are so far apart that they can travel hundreds of km without colliding with one another. Since the particles rarely collide, the atmosphere no longer behaves like a fluid. These free-moving particles follow ballistic trajectories and may migrate into and out of the magnetosphere or the solar wind. The exosphere is mainly composed of hydrogen and helium. Other layers Within the five principal layers determined by temperature are several layers determined by other properties.

The ozone layer is contained within the stratosphere. In this layer ozone concentrations are about 2 to 8 parts per million, which is much higher than in the lower atmosphere but still very small compared to the main components of the atmosphere. It is mainly located in the lower portion of the stratosphere from about 15–35 km (9.3–22 mi; 49,000–110,000 ft), though the thickness varies seasonally and geographically. About 90% of the ozone in our atmosphere is contained in the stratosphere. The ionosphere, the part of the atmosphere that is ionized by solar radiation, stretches from 50 to 1,000 km (31 to 620 mi; 160,000 to 3,300,000 ft) and typically overlaps both the exosphere and the thermosphere. It forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere. It has practical importance because it influences, for example, radio propagation on the Earth. It is responsible for auroras. The homosphere and heterosphere are defined by whether the atmospheric gases are well mixed. In the homosphere the chemical composition of the atmosphere does not depend on molecular weight because the gases are mixed by turbulence.[3] The homosphere includes the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere. Above the turbopause at about 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft) (essentially corresponding to the mesopause), the composition varies with altitude. This is because the distance that particles can move without colliding with one another is large compared with the size of motions that cause mixing. This allows the gases to stratify by molecular weight, with the heavier ones such as oxygen and nitrogen present only near the bottom of the heterosphere. The upper part of the heterosphere is composed almost completely of hydrogen, the lightest element. The planetary boundary layer is the part of the troposphere that is nearest the Earth's surface and is directly affected by it, mainly through turbulent diffusion. During the day the planetary boundary layer usually is well-mixed,

while at night it becomes stably stratified with weak or intermittent mixing. The depth of the planetary boundary layer ranges from as little as about 100 m on clear, calm nights to 3000 m or more during the afternoon in dry regions. The average temperature of the atmosphere at the surface of Earth is 14 °C (57 °F; 287 K)[4] or 15 °C (59 °F; 288 K)[5], depending on the reference.[6] [7][8] Physical properties Pressure and thickness The average atmospheric pressure at sea level is about 1 atmosphere (atm) = 101.3 kPa (kilopascals) = 14.7 psi (pounds per square inch) = 760 torr = 29.9 inches of mercury (symbol Hg). Total atmospheric mass is 5.1480×1018 kg (1.135×1019 lb),[9] about 2.5% less than would be inferred naively from the average sea level pressure and the Earth's area of 51007.2 megahectares, this defect having been displaced by the Earth's mountainous terrain. Atmospheric pressure is the total weight of the air above unit area at the point where the pressure is measured. Thus air pressure varies with location and time, because the amount of air above the Earth's surface so varies. Were atmospheric density to remain constant with height the atmosphere would terminate abruptly at 8.50 km (27,900 ft). Instead, density decreases with height, dropping by 50% at an altitude of about 5.6 km (18,000 ft). As a result the pressure decrease is approximately exponential with height, so that pressure decreases by approximately half every 5.6 km (18,000 ft) and by 63.2% (1 − 1 / e = 1 − 0.368 = 0.632) every 7.64 km (25,100 ft), the average scale height of Earth's atmosphere below 70 km (43 mi; 230,000 ft). However, because of changes in temperature, average molecular weight, and gravity throughout the atmospheric column, the dependence of atmospheric pressure on altitude is modeled by separate equations for each of the layers listed above. Even in the exosphere, the atmosphere is still present. This can be seen by the effects of atmospheric drag on satellites. In summary, the equations of pressure by altitude in the above references can be used directly to estimate atmospheric thickness. However, the following published data are given for reference:[10]
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50% of the atmosphere by mass is below an altitude of 5.6 km (18,000 ft). 90% of the atmosphere by mass is below an altitude of 16 km (52,000 ft). The common altitude of commercial airliners is about 10 km (33,000 ft) and Mt. Everest's summit is 8,848 m (29,030 ft) above sea level. 99.99997% of the atmosphere by mass is below 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft), although in the rarefied region above this there are auroras and other atmospheric effects. The highest X-15 plane flight in 1963 reached an altitude of 354,300 ft (108.0 km).

Density and mass

The density of air at sea level is about 1.2 kg/m3 (1.2 g/L). Density is not measured directly but is calculated from measurements of temperature, pressure and humidity using the equation of state for air (a form of the ideal gas law). Atmospheric density decreases as the altitude increases. This variation can be approximately modeled using the barometric formula. More sophisticated models are used by meteorologists and space agencies to predict weather and orbital decay of satellites. The average mass of the atmosphere is about 5 quadrillion (5x1015) tonnes or 1/1,200,000 the mass of Earth. According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, "The total mean mass of the atmosphere is 5.1480 × 1018 kg with an annual range due to water vapor of 1.2 or 1.5 × 1015 kg depending on whether surface pressure or water vapor data are used; somewhat smaller than the previous estimate. The mean mass of water vapor is estimated as 1.27 × 1016 kg and the dry air mass as 5.1352 ±0.0003 × 1018 kg." Optical properties Solar radiation (or sunlight) is the energy the Earth receives from the Sun. The Earth also emits radiation back into space, but at longer wavelengths that we cannot see. Depending on its condition, the atmosphere can block radiation from coming in or going out. Important examples of this are clouds and the greenhouse effect. Scattering When light passes through our atmosphere, photons interact with it through scattering. If the light does not interact with the atmosphere, it is called direct radiation and is what you see if you were to look directly at the sun. Indirect radiation is light that has been scattered in the atmosphere. For example, on an overcast day when you can't see your shadow there is no direct radiation reaching you, it has all been scattered. As another example, due to a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, shorter (blue) wavelengths scatter more easily than longer (red) wavelengths. This is why the sky looks blue, you are seeing scattered blue light. This is also why sunsets are red. Because the sun is close to the horizon, the sun rays pass through more atmosphere than normal to reach your eye. Much of the blue light has been scattered out, leaving the red light in a sunset. Absorption Different molecules absorb different wavelengths of radiation. For example, O2 and O3 absorb almost all wavelengths shorter than 300 nanometers. Water (H2O) absorbs many wavelengths above 700 nm. When a molecule absorbs a photon, it increases the energy of the molecule. We can think of this as heating the atmosphere, but the atmosphere also cools by emitting radiation, as discussed below. The combined absorption spectra of the gasses in the atmosphere leave "windows" of low opacity, allowing the transmission of only certain bands of light. The optical

window runs from around 300 nm (ultraviolet-C) up into the range humans can see, the visible spectrum (commonly called light), at roughly 400–700 nm and continues to the infrared to around 1100 nm. There are also infrared and radio windows that transmit some infrared and radio waves at longer wavelengths. For example, the radio window runs from about one centimeter to about eleven-meter waves. Emission Emission is the opposite of absorption, it is when an object emits radiation. Objects tend to emit amounts and wavelengths of radiation depending on their "black body" emission curves, therefore hotter objects tend to emit more radiation, with shorter wavelengths. Colder objects emit less radiation, with longer wavelengths. For example, the sun is approximately 6,000 K (5,730 °C; 10,340 °F), its radiation peaks near 500 nm, and is visible to the human eye. The Earth is approximately 290 K (17 °C; 62 °F), so its radiation peaks near 10,000 nm, and is much too long to be visible to humans. Because of its temperature, the atmosphere emits infrared radiation. For example, on clear nights the Earth's surface cools down faster than on cloudy nights. This is because clouds (H2O) are strong absorbers and emitters of infrared radiation. This is also why it becomes colder at night at higher elevations. The atmosphere acts as a "blanket" to limit the amount of radiation the Earth loses into space. The greenhouse effect is directly related to this absorption and emission (or "blanket") effect. Some chemicals in the atmosphere absorb and emit infrared radiation, but do not interact with sunlight in the visible spectrum. Common examples of these chemicals are CO2 and H2O. If there are too much of these greenhouse gasses, sunlight heats the Earth's surface, but the gases block the infrared radiation from exiting back to space. This imbalance causes the Earth to warm, and thus climate change. The refractive index of air is close to, but just greater than 1. Systematic variations in refractive index can lead to the bending of light rays over long optical paths. One example is that under some circumstances ships can see other vessels just over the horizon because light is refracted in the same direction as the curvature of the Earth's surface. Circulation Atmospheric circulation is the large-scale movement of air, and the means (with ocean circulation) by which heat is distributed around the Earth. The large-scale structure of the atmospheric circulation varies from year to year, but the basic structure remains fairly constant as it is determined by the Earth's rotation rate and the difference in solar radiation between the equator and poles. Evolution of Earth's atmosphere

Earliest atmosphere The outgassings of the Earth were stripped away by solar wind early in the history of the planet until a steady state was established, the first atmosphere. Based on today's volcanic evidence, this atmosphere would have contained 80% water vapor, 10% carbon dioxide, 5 to 7% hydrogen sulfide, and smaller amounts of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, methane and inert gases.[citation needed] A major rainfall led to the buildup of a vast ocean, enriching the other agents, first carbon dioxide and later nitrogen and inert gases. A major part of carbon dioxide exhalations were soon dissolved in water and built up carbonatic sediments. Second atmosphere Water related sediments have been found dating from as early as 3.8 billion years ago [11] . About 3.4 billion years ago, nitrogen was the major part of the then stable "second atmosphere." An influence of life has to be taken into account rather soon in the history of the atmosphere, since hints of early life forms are to be found as early as 3.5 billion years ago[12]. The fact that this is not perfectly in line with the compared to today 30% lower - solar radiance of the early sun has been described as the "Faint young Sun paradox". The geological record however shows a continually relatively warm surface during the complete early temperature record of the Earth with the exception of one cold glacial phase about 2.4 billion years ago. Sometime during the late Archaean era an oxygencontaining atmosphere began to develop, apparently from photosynthesizing algae which have been found as stromatolite fossils from 2.7 billion years ago. The early basic carbon isotopy (isotope ratio proportions) is very much in line with what is found today,[13] suggesting that the fundamental features of the carbon cycle were established as early as 4 billion years ago. Third atmosphere The accretion of continents about 3.5 billion years ago[14] added plate tectonics, constantly rearranging the continents and also shaping long-term climate evolution by allowing the transfer of carbon dioxide to large land-based carbonate storages. Free oxygen did not exist until about 1.7 billion years ago and this can be seen with the development of the red beds and the end of the banded iron formations. This signifies a shift from a reducing atmosphere to an oxidising atmosphere. O2 showed major ups and downs until reaching a steady state of more than 15%[15]. The following time span was the Phanerozoic era, during which oxygen-breathing metazoan life forms began to appear. Currently, anthropogenic greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this increase is the main cause of global warming.[16]

Air pollution Air pollution is the human introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to organisms, into the atmosphere.[17] Stratospheric ozone depletion is believed to be caused by air pollution (chiefly from chlorofluorocarbons).[citation needed] While major stationary sources are often identified with air pollution, the greatest source of emissions is actually mobile sources, principally the automobile.[citation needed] Atmosphere An atmosphere (from Greek ἀτμός - atmos "vapor" and σφαῖρα - sphaira "sphere") is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass,[1] by the gravity of the body, and are retained for a longer duration if gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low. Some planets consist mainly of various gases, but only their outer layer is their atmosphere (see gas giants). The term stellar atmosphere describes the outer region of a star, and typically includes the portion starting from the opaque photosphere outwards. Relatively lowtemperature stars may form compound molecules in their outer atmosphere. Earth's atmosphere, which contains oxygen used by most organisms for respiration and carbon dioxide used by plants, algae and cyanobacteria for photosynthesis, also protects living organisms from genetic damage by solar ultraviolet radiation. Its current composition is the product of billions of years of biochemical modification of the paleoatmosphere by living organisms. Pressure Atmospheric pressure is the force per unit area that is applied perpendicularly to a surface by the surrounding gas. It is determined by a planet's gravitational force in combination with the total mass of a column of air above a location. Units of air pressure are based on the internationally-recognized standard atmosphere (atm), which is defined as 101,325 Pa (or 1,013,250 dynes per cm²). The pressure of an atmospheric gas decreases with altitude due to the diminishing mass of gas above each location. The height at which the pressure from an atmosphere declines by a factor of e (an irrational number with a value of 2.71828..) is called the scale height and is denoted by H. For an atmosphere with a uniform temperature, the scale height is proportional to the temperature and inversely proportional to the mean molecular mass of dry air times the planet's gravitational acceleration. For such a model atmosphere, the pressure declines exponentially with increasing altitude. However, atmospheres are not uniform in temperature, so the exact determination of the atmospheric pressure at any particular altitude is more complex.

Escape Surface gravity, the force that holds down an atmosphere, differs significantly among the planets. For example, the large gravitational force of the giant planet Jupiter is able to retain light gases such as hydrogen and helium that escape from lower gravity objects. Second, the distance from the sun determines the energy available to heat atmospheric gas to the point where its molecules' thermal motion exceed the planet's escape velocity, the speed at which gas molecules overcome a planet's gravitational grasp. Thus, the distant and cold Titan, Triton, and Pluto are able to retain their atmospheres despite relatively low gravities. Interstellar planets, theoretically, may also retain thick atmospheres. Since a gas at any particular temperature will have molecules moving at a wide range of velocities, there will almost always be some slow leakage of gas into space. Lighter molecules move faster than heavier ones with the same thermal kinetic energy, and so gases of low molecular weight are lost more rapidly than those of high molecular weight. It is thought that Venus and Mars may have both lost much of their water when, after being photodissociated into hydrogen and oxygen by solar ultraviolet, the hydrogen escaped. Earth's magnetic field helps to prevent this, as, normally, the solar wind would greatly enhance the escape of hydrogen. However, over the past 3 billion years the Earth may have lost gases through the magnetic polar regions due to auroral activity, including a net 2% of its atmospheric oxygen.[2] Other mechanisms that can cause atmosphere depletion are solar wind-induced sputtering, impact erosion, weathering, and sequestration — sometimes referred to as "freezing out" — into the regolith and polar caps. Composition Initial atmospheric makeup is generally related to the chemistry and temperature of the local solar nebula during planetary formation and the subsequent escape of interior gases. These original atmospheres underwent much evolution over time, with the varying properties of each planet resulting in very different outcomes. The atmospheres of the planets Venus and Mars are primarily composed of carbon dioxide, with small quantities of nitrogen, argon, oxygen and traces of other gases. The atmospheric composition on Earth is largely governed by the by-products of the very life that it sustains. Earth's atmosphere contains roughly (by molar content/volume) 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, a variable amount (average around 0.247%, National Center for Atmospheric Research) water vapor, 0.93% argon, 0.038% carbon dioxide, and traces of hydrogen, helium, and other "noble" gases (and of volatile pollutants). The low temperatures and higher gravity of the gas giants — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — allows them to more readily retain gases with low molecular masses.

These planets have hydrogen-helium atmospheres, with trace amounts of more complex compounds. Two satellites of the outer planets possess non-negligible atmospheres: Titan, a moon of Saturn, and Triton, a moon of Neptune, which are mainly nitrogen. Pluto, in the nearer part of its orbit, has an atmosphere of nitrogen and methane similar to Triton's, but these gases are frozen when farther from the Sun. Other bodies within the Solar System have extremely thin atmospheres not in equilibrium. These include the Moon (sodium gas), Mercury (sodium gas), Europa (oxygen), Io (sulfur), and Enceladus (water vapor). The atmospheric composition of an extra-solar planet was first determined using the Hubble Space Telescope. Planet HD 209458b is a gas giant with a close orbit around a star in the constellation Pegasus. The atmosphere is heated to temperatures over 1,000 K, and is steadily escaping into space. Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and sulfur have been detected in the planet's inflated atmosphere.[3] Structure Earth Main article: Earth's atmosphere The Earth's atmosphere consists, from the ground up, of the troposphere (which includes the planetary boundary layer or peplosphere as lowest layer), stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere (which contains the ionosphere and exosphere) and also the magnetosphere. Each of the layers has a different lapse rate, defining the rate of change in temperature with height. Three quarters of the atmosphere lies within the troposphere, and the depth of this layer varies between 17 km at the equator and 7 km at the poles. The ozone layer, which absorbs ultraviolet energy from the Sun, is located primarily in the stratosphere, at altitudes of 15 to 35 km. The Kármán line, located within the thermosphere at an altitude of 100 km, is commonly used to define the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space. However, the exosphere can extend from 500 up to 10,000 km above the surface, where it interacts with the planet's magnetosphere. The atmosphere is a mixture of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), and other gases (1%) that surrounds Earth. High above the planet, the atmosphere becomes thinner until it gradually reaches space. It is divided into five layers. Most of the weather and clouds are found in the first layer. The atmosphere is an important part of what makes Earth livable. It blocks some of

the Sun's dangerous rays from reaching Earth. It traps heat, making Earth a comfortable temperature. And the oxygen within our atmosphere is essential for life. Over the past century, greenhouse gases and other air pollutants released into the atmosphere have been causing big changes like global warming, ozone holes, and acid rain. Layers of the Earth's Atmosphere The atmosphere is divided into five layers. It is thickest near the surface and thins out with height until it eventually merges with space. 1) The troposphere is the first layer above the surface and contains half of the Earth's atmosphere. Weather occurs in this layer. 2) Many jet aircrafts fly in the stratosphere because it is very stable. Also, the ozone layer absorbs harmful rays from the Sun. 3) Meteors or rock fragments burn up in the mesosphere. 4) The thermosphere is a layer with auroras. It is also where the space shuttle orbits. 5) The atmosphere merges into space in the extremely thin exosphere. This is the upper limit of our atmosphere. The Troposphere The troposphere is the lowest layer of Earth's atmosphere. The troposphere starts at Earth's surface and goes up to a height of 7 to 20 km (4 to 12 miles, or 23,000 to 65,000 feet) above sea level. Most of the mass (about 75-80%) of the atmosphere is in the troposphere. Almost all weather occurs within this layer. Air is warmest at the bottom of the troposphere near ground level. Higher up it gets colder. Air pressure and the density of the air are also less at high altitudes. The layer above the troposphere is called the stratosphere. Nearly all of the water vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere are in the troposphere. That is why most clouds are found in this lowest layer, too. The bottom of the troposphere, right next to the surface of Earth, is called the "boundary layer". In places where Earth's surface is "bumpy" (mountains, forests) winds in the boundary layer are all jumbled up. In smooth places (over water or ice) the winds are smoother. The winds above the boundary layer aren't affected by the surface much. The troposphere is heated from below. Sunlight warms the ground or ocean, which in turn radiates the heat into the air right above it. This warm air tends to rise. That keeps the air in the troposphere "stirred up". The top of the troposphere is quite cold. The temperature there is around -55° C (-64° F)! Air also gets 'thinner' as you go higher up. That's why mountain climbers sometimes need bottled oxygen to breathe.

The boundary between the top of the troposphere and the stratosphere (the layer above it) is called the tropopause. The height of the tropopause depends on latitude, season, and whether it is day or night. Near the equator, the tropopause is about 20 km (12 miles or 65,000 feet) above sea level. In winter near the poles the tropopause is much lower. It is about 7 km (4 miles or 23,000 feet) high. The jet stream is just below the tropopause. This "river of air" zooms along at 400 km/hr (250 mph)! The Stratosphere The stratosphere is a layer of Earth's atmosphere. The stratosphere is the second layer, as one moves upward from Earth's surface, of the atmosphere. The stratosphere is above the troposphere and below the mesosphere. The top of the stratosphere occurs at 50 km (31 miles) altitude. The boundary between the stratosphere and the mesosphere above is called the stratopause. The altitude of the bottom of the stratosphere varies with latitude and with the seasons, occurring between about 8 and 16 km (5 and 10 miles, or 26,000 to 53,000 feet). The bottom of the stratosphere is around 16 km (10 miles or 53,000 feet) above Earth's surface near the equator, around 10 km (6 miles) at mid-latitudes, and around 8 km (5 miles) near the poles. It is slightly lower in winter at mid- and high-latitudes, and slightly higher in the summer. The boundary between the stratosphere and the troposphere below is called the tropopause. Ozone, an unusual type of oxygen molecule that is relatively abundant in the stratosphere, heats this layer as it absorbs energy from incoming ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Temperatures rise as one moves upward through the stratosphere. This is exactly the opposite of the behavior in the troposphere in which we live, where temperatures drop with increasing altitude. Because of this temperature stratification, there is little convection and mixing in the stratosphere, so the layers of air there are quite stable. Commercial jet aircraft fly in the lower stratosphere to avoid the turbulence which is common in the troposphere below. The stratosphere is very dry; air there contains little water vapor. Because of this, few clouds are found in this layer; almost all clouds occur in the lower, more humid troposphere. Polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) are the exception. PSCs appear in the lower stratosphere near the poles in winter. They are found at altitudes of 15 to 25 km (9.3 to 15.5 miles) and form only when temperatures at those heights dip below -78° C. They appear to help cause the formation of the infamous holes in the ozone layer by "encouraging" certain chemical reactions that destroy ozone. PSCs are also called nacreous clouds. Air is roughly a thousand times thinner at the top of the stratosphere than it is at sea level. Because of this, jet aircraft and weather balloons reach their maximum operational altitudes within the stratosphere. Due to the lack of vertical convection in the stratosphere, materials that get into the

stratosphere can stay there for long times. Such is the case for the ozone-destroying chemicals called CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). Large volcanic eruptions and major meteorite impacts can fling aerosol particles up into the stratosphere where they may linger for months or years, sometimes altering Earth's global climate. Rocket launches inject exhaust gases into the stratosphere, producing uncertain consequences. Various types of waves and tides in the atmosphere influence the stratosphere. Some of these waves and tides carry energy from the troposphere upward into the stratosphere; others convey energy from the stratosphere up into the mesosphere. The waves and tides influence the flows of air in the stratosphere and can also cause regional heating of this layer of the atmosphere. A rare type of electrical discharge, somewhat akin to lightning, occurs in the stratosphere. These "blue jets" appear above thunderstorms, and extend from the bottom of the stratosphere up to altitudes of 40 or 50 km (25 to 31 miles). The Mesosphere The mesosphere is a layer of Earth's atmosphere. The mesosphere is above the stratosphere layer. The layer above the mesosphere is called the thermosphere. The mesosphere starts at 50 km (31 miles) above Earth's surface and goes up to 85 km (53 miles) high. As you get higher up in the mesosphere, the temperature gets colder. The top of the mesosphere is the coldest part of Earth's atmosphere. The temperature there is around -90° C (-130° F)! The boundaries between layers in the atmosphere have special names. The mesopause is the boundary between the mesosphere and the thermosphere above it. The stratopause is the boundary between the mesosphere and the stratosphere below it. Scientists know less about the mesosphere than about other layers of the atmosphere. The mesosphere is hard to study. Weather balloons and jet planes cannot fly high enough to reach the mesosphere. The orbits of satellites are above the mesosphere. We don't have many ways to get scientific instruments to the mesosphere to take measurements there. We do get some measurements using sounding rockets. Sounding rockets make short flights that don't go into orbit. Overall, there's a lot we don't know about the mesosphere because it is hard to measure and study. What do we know about the mesosphere? Most meteors from space burn up in this layer. A special type of clouds, called "noctilucent clouds", sometimes forms in the mesosphere near the North and South Poles. These clouds are strange because they form much, much higher up than any other type of cloud. There are also odd types of lightning in the mesosphere. These types of lightning, called "sprites" and "ELVES",

appear dozens of miles above thunderclouds in the troposphere below. In the mesosphere and below, different kinds of gases are all mixed together in the air. Above the mesosphere, the air is so thin that atoms and molecules of gases hardly ever run into each other. The gases get separated some, depending on the kinds of elements (like nitrogen or oxygen) that are in them. You know that waves can form in the ocean or other bodies of water. But did you know that there are waves of air in the atmosphere? Some of these waves start in the lower atmosphere, the troposphere and stratosphere, and move upward into the mesosphere. The waves carry energy to the mesosphere. Most of the movement of air in the mesosphere is caused by these waves. The Thermosphere

The thermosphere is a layer of Earth's atmosphere. The thermosphere is directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere. It extends from about 90 km (56 miles) to between 500 and 1,000 km (311 to 621 miles) above our planet. Temperatures climb sharply in the lower thermosphere (below 200 to 300 km altitude), then level off and hold fairly steady with increasing altitude above that height. Solar activity strongly influences temperature in the thermosphere. The thermosphere is typically about 200° C (360° F) hotter in the daytime than at night, and roughly 500° C (900° F) hotter when the Sun is very active than at other times. Temperatures in the upper thermosphere can range from about 500° C (932° F) to 2,000° C (3,632° F) or higher. The boundary between the thermosphere and the exosphere above it is called the thermopause. At the bottom of the thermosphere is the mesopause, the boundary between the thermosphere and the mesosphere below. Although the thermosphere is considered part of Earth's atmosphere, the air density is so low in this layer that most of the thermosphere is what we normally think of as outer space. In fact, the most common definition says that space begins at an altitude of 100 km (62 miles), slightly above the mesopause at the bottom of the thermosphere. The space shuttle and the International Space Station both orbit Earth within the thermosphere! Below the thermosphere, gases made of different types of atoms and molecules are thoroughly mixed together by turbulence in the atmosphere. Air in the lower atmosphere is mainly composed of the familiar blend of about 80% nitrogen molecules (N2) and about 20% oxygen molecules (O2). In the thermosphere and above, gas particles collide so infrequently that the gases become somewhat separated based on

the types of chemical elements they contain. Energetic ultraviolet and X-ray photons from the Sun also break apart molecules in the thermosphere. In the upper thermosphere, atomic oxygen (O), atomic nitrogen (N), and helium (He) are the main components of air. Much of the X-ray and UV radiation from the Sun is absorbed in the thermosphere. When the Sun is very active and emitting more high energy radiation, the thermosphere gets hotter and expands or "puffs up". Because of this, the height of the top of the thermosphere (the thermopause) varies. The thermopause is found at an altitude between 500 km and 1,000 km or higher. Since many satellites orbit within the thermosphere, changes in the density of (the very, very thin) air at orbital altitudes brought on by heating and expansion of the thermosphere generates a drag force on satellites. Engineers must take this varying drag into account when calculating orbits, and satellites occasionally need to be boosted higher to offset the effects of the drag force. High-energy solar photons also tear electrons away from gas particles in the thermosphere, creating electrically-charged ions of atoms and molecules. Earth's ionosphere, composed of several regions of such ionized particles in the atmosphere, overlaps with and shares the same space with the electrically neutral thermosphere. Like the oceans, Earth's atmosphere has waves and tides within it. These waves and tides help move energy around within the atmosphere, including the thermosphere. Winds and the overall circulation in the thermosphere are largely driven by these tides and waves. Moving ions, dragged along by collisions with the electrically neutral gases, produce powerful electrical currents in some parts of the thermosphere. Finally, the aurora (the Southern and Northern Lights) primarily occur in the thermosphere. Charged particles (electrons, protons, and other ions) from space collide with atoms and molecules in the thermosphere at high latitudes, exciting them into higher energy states. Those atoms and molecules shed this excess energy by emitting photons of light, which we see as colorful auroral displays. The Exosphere Very high up, the Earth's atmosphere becomes very thin. The region where atoms and molecules escape into space is referred to as the exosphere. The exosphere is on top of the thermosphere.

Gas Nitrogen

Symbol N2

Content 78.084% 99.998%

Oxygen Argon Carbon Dioxide Neon Helium Krypton Sulfur dioxide Methane Hydrogen Nitrous Oxide Xenon Ozone Nitrogen dioxide Iodine Carbon monoxide Ammonia

O2 Ar CO2 Ne He Kr SO2 CH4 H2 N2O Xe O3 NO2 I2 CO NH3

20.947% 0.934% 0.033% 18.20 parts per million 5.20 parts per million 1.10 parts per million 1.00 parts per million 2.00 parts per million 0.50 parts per million 0.50 parts per million 0.09 parts per million 0.07 parts per million 0.02 parts per million 0.01 parts per million trace trace

The atmosphere is a cloud of gas and suspended solids extending from the Earth's surface out many thousands of miles, becoming increasingly thinner with distance but always held by the Earth's gravitational pull. The atmosphere is made up of layers surrounding the earth that holds the air we breathe, it protects us from outer space, and holds moisture (clouds), gases, and tiny particles. In short, the atmosphere is the protective bubble we live in. This protective bubble consists of several gases (right) with the top four making up 99.998% of all gases. Of the dry composition of the atmosphere nitrogen, by far, is the most common. N2 dilutes oxygen and prevents rapid burning at the earth's surface. Living things need it to make proteins. Oxygen is used by all living things and is essential for respiration. It is also necessary for combustion or burning. Argon is used in light bulbs. Plants use carbon dioxide to make oxygen. Carbon dioxide also acts as a blanket and prevents the escape of heat into outer space. The atmosphere is rarely, if ever, dry. Water Vapor is nearly always present up to about 4% of the total volume. In the deserts regions (30°N/S) when dry winds are blowing, the water vapor content will be near zero. This climbs to near 3% on extremely hot/humid days. The upper limit, approaching 4%, is for tropical climates. The table below shows the change in atmospheric composition with inclusion of water vapor.