Published On: Tue, Nov 2nd, 2010

Where does weather come from? The troposphere

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By Jennifer Natalie Ortega

Our atmosphere contains many different levels from the ground up. But the most important layer creating the world’s weather is the troposphere. This is where it all happens!

The troposphere is the lowest layer of our atmosphere, nearly four to 12 miles from the Earth, starting at the ground and ending at the tip of our clouds. The height of the layer varies from the equator to the poles (farthest northern and southern points). It is 11-12 miles high at the equator while at the poles just less than four miles high.

The troposphere is known to contain nitrogen, oxygen, gases and nearly all the atmospheric water vapor. Given that the densities of the gases in this layer decrease with height, the air becomes thinner. Warm air is concentrated near the earth’s surface so, as the sunlight hits the ground or ocean, it radiates heat into the air above it. Therefore, the higher you go up into the sky, the lower the temperature gets, while the top of the troposphere is quite cold ranging to -64 degrees Fahrenheit.

For as long as we can remember, we learned in science class that warm air rises and cold air descends and that’s exactly what takes place in the troposphere. Because warm air is less dense than cold air, warm molecules can easily rise to the top of the troposphere and back down.

The vertical movement of the different temperature air molecules creates clouds and when the clouds get heavy with moisture, it ultimately creates rain. This process produces the weather which we experience every day.

Since all weather occurs within the troposphere, the air is in continuous movement with horizontal and vertical airflows. This is the reason that when you look up into the sky in the morning you won’t see the same exact cloud formations as when you look up again during mid-day.

The troposphere is where we live and where our weather takes place. Now that you’ve learned some new facts, next time you run into a friend, you can tell them you’re walking around in the troposphere.

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