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Layers of the Atmosphere: Troposphere

Earth's atmosphere is comprised of five different layers! Let's break down the first layer, called the troposphere.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — How many layers do you think there are in our atmosphere?

Five! We have five different layers between us and outer space.

From the surface up there is the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, and the exosphere.

Each layer has characteristics that make it unique. Let's break down the troposphere.

The troposphere is where we live; it’s the layer closest to the surface. It extends 5-10 miles high and is thinnest at the poles and thickest at the equator. This is the smallest layer out of the five, but it contains more than 75% of the mass of the atmosphere. This layers defining characteristic is that pressure and temperature decrease as height increases. An example of this would be climbing a mountain. The higher up the mountain you go, the colder it gets, and the harder it becomes to breathe.  

Credit: wtlv

Let’s dissect the word. Tropo is Latin for changing, which makes sense because the troposphere is where all of Earth’s weather occurs… which is constantly changing!

Here is the coolest part about the troposphere; you can actually see where it ends! When large thunderstorms develop, clouds will grow all the way to the top of the troposphere, but they can’t continue to develop into the next layer, the stratosphere. Instead, the clouds will start to spread horizontally as if they have hit a ceiling. As they spread outward, they create a cloud formation called an anvil top! If you see an anvil, then you have a big storm on your hands! 

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