ATMOSPHERE LAYERS: Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere and Thermosphere

Earth's layers of atmosphere in order - bottom to top

Earth Atmosphere Layers
From bottom to top, Earth's atmosphere layers are the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere and thermosphere. We live in the troposphere and all weather occurs there. The thermosphere is the highest and thinnest layer of Earth's atmosphere.

Last Updated: Sep 2, 2018

Earth’s atmosphere layers

There are 4 primary layers of the atmosphere on Earth: the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere.

And the thermosphere can be further broken up into the ionosphere and exosphere.

But what is the purpose of each layer and how does it relate to Earth?

Starting from low to high, here is a list of all the layers of the atmosphere.

1 The Troposphere

The troposphere is the layer that we live in and extends about 12 km upwards.

This is where all the weather occurs and it’s the air that we breathe.

A significant amount of the troposphere is just 2 gases. 78% of the troposphere is nitrogen and 21% is oxygen. For the remaining 1%, it’s mostly argon and carbon dioxide.

READ MORE: Earth’s Atmosphere Composition: Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon and CO2

Atmosphere Layers Troposphere

2 The Stratosphere

From about 12 km to 50 km is the stratosphere. In this layer, the jet stream blows strong winds eastward.

Airplanes use this layer of the atmosphere when they travel from west to east. It gives an extra push on its tail which helps it move faster.

It also has the ozone layer, which absorbs harmful radiation from the sun. This includes UV rays. But in the south pole, there is a hole and if it enlarges could cause issues.

Atmosphere Layers Stratosphere

3 The Mesosphere

The mesosphere is the coldest region of Earth’s atmosphere. It’s somewhere close to -100 degrees Celsius.

In the mesosphere, scientists send unmanned balloons to measure the temperature.

Actually, this layer also protects the Earth from large meteoroids. The friction within this layer causes meteors to burn up.

Atmosphere Layers Mesosphere

4 The Thermosphere

The thickest layer in the atmosphere is the thermosphere starting at about 80km going upwards.

This is where the UV radiation from the sun turns to heat causing the air to be very hot. It can reach temperatures up to 1500 degrees Celsius or more.

Actually, the thermosphere has 2 layers of its own called the ionosphere and the exosphere.

The ionosphere is where the sun’s radiation causes particles to be electrically charged, hence the term ‘ion’. Actually, this is where the sun flows with spectacular light shows for the Aurora Borealis or Northern light.

Finally, the upper part of the thermosphere is the exosphere starting at about 550 km. It’s a very thin part of the atmosphere where satellites can freely orbit the Earth.

Atmosphere Layers Thermosphere

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