What is the Mesosphere?


The mesosphere is the third layer of the atmosphere. It spans a vertical distance from 50 to 90 km.

Here are some of the highlights of the mesosphere:

  • The mesosphere is the coldest region of Earth’s atmosphere, close to -100°C.
  • It’s the layer of the atmosphere where meteors burn up into small fragments of dust.
  • The mesosphere has little impact on weather patterns, pollution transport and water vapor availability.
  • The air is very thin in the mesosphere similar to a vacuum.
  • The mesosphere is sandwiched between the stratosphere below and thermosphere above.

Where is the mesosphere?

Atmosphere Layers

The mesosphere is directly above the stratosphere and below the thermosphere. It spans a vertical distance between 50 to 90 km.

At the top of the mesosphere, the transition into the thermosphere is called the mesopause. Then, the transition below into the stratosphere is called the stratopause.

The thermosphere which consists of the ionosphere and exosphere are above the mesosphere. These layers of the atmosphere contain just  0.001% of air mass over the Earth.

How do meteors break up in the mesosphere?

Meteor Differences

If space rocks fall towards Earth, it’s in the mesosphere where they burn up. But if any space rocks get through the mesosphere, the ones that hit Earth are called meteorites.

The mesosphere layer protects the Earth from large meteoroids. It’s in the mesosphere where it serves as a shield for meteorites.

Friction in the mesosphere burns up meteors. Then, they disintegrate into small pieces of dust. From our eyes, we see the ionized trails left by the remains of meteors.

What is air temperature in the mesosphere?

Atmosphere Temperature Vertical

Temperature decreases with height in the mesosphere. In fact, temperatures can reach values as low as 100 K in this layer of the atmosphere.

Remember that the ozone layer in the stratosphere below absorbs ultraviolet radiation and elevates temperatures. This is why it’s an inverted temperature gradient upward to the stratopause.

Then, the mesopause is the altitude at which the temperature reaches a minimum before increasing with height in the thermosphere.

Reach for the sky

See our meteorology section


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