Layers of the atmosphere for kids

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Learn about the major layers of the atmosphere.

Major Layers of the Atmosphere

The earth is surrounded by a protective atmosphere that keeps our earth warm and protects us from comets and meteors.

This atmosphere can be divided into four individuals layers separated by changes in air temperature.

The 4 major layers are the,

  • Troposphere 
  • Stratosphere 
  • Mesosphere
  • Thermosphere

layers atmosphere

The first layer is called the troposphere and is composed of 78% nitrogen 21% oxygen and 1% other gases including argon. We live in this layer and weather occurs here.

The atmosphere in the troposphere presses down with a great deal of pressure each day but many times we don’t notice this. In fact, coke can be crushed by our atmosphere. As you go upward in the troposphere the temperature drops. This is called the lapse rate and the temperature drops 3 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 feet in elevation.

For example, in my state, Augusta with an elevation of 136 feet has an average high temperature of 77 degrees and Blairsville is over 3000 feet in elevation and has an average high temperature of 68 degrees. The troposphere extends from the ground to about 10 kilometers This is equal to 25 laps around a track.

At the very top of the troposphere temperatures drop to around negative 52 degrees Celsius.

The next layer is called the stratosphere and the ozone layer is found in the stratosphere. The ozone layer protects us from ultraviolet light rays given off from the Sun. As you get higher in the stratosphere, the temperature actually gets warmer because the ozone layer absorbs ultraviolet rays and warms up the stratosphere. 

At 50 kilometers above the earth, we move to the next layer called the mesosphere. The mesosphere gets colder as you go up, in fact, it is the coldest layer and can have temperatures as low as negative 90 degrees Celsius. The mesosphere protects the earth from space junk because of the ice crystals burn up space junk as it moves through this layer of the atmosphere. The mesosphere extends to about 80 kilometers high.

Finally, you have the thermosphere that is very hot, in fact, it's the hottest layer. This layer is capable of temperatures between 500 and 1,500 degrees Celius 

Two additional layers of our atmosphere are the ionosphere which is full of electrically charged atoms and is home of the northern and southern lights it also reflects back radio waves. the exosphere is the outermost layer of our atmosphere and stretches almost 10,000 kilometers into space. It is composed of helium and several heavier molecules including nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide which are spread very far apart. It is also home to satellites. 

Each layer is classified according to the temperature. As you gain elevation in the troposphere the temperature drops. The temperature range is from around 15 degrees celsius to negative 45 to 50 Celsius.

The temperature of the stratosphere actually gets warmer with elevation and ranges from minus 45 to 50 degrees celsius at the bottom to 0 degrees celsius at the top.

The mesosphere is similar to the troposphere and the temperature decreases with elevation.

The temperature ranges from 0 degrees celsius to negative 90 degrees celsius at the top.

Finally, the thermosphere gets warmer with elevation. The temperature ranges from negative 90 degrees at the bottom to over 1500  degrees celsius at the very top.

As you go up in elevation the atmospheric pressure decreases and as you down in elevation the atmospheric pressure increases.

In 2012  Felix Baumgartner completed a freefall parachute jump from the stratosphere. During this jump, he reached speeds of over 800 miles per hour and broke the sound barrier. He was able to reach this high speed because the atmosphere is so thin there was very little friction to slow him down.

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