You might be asking yourself a few questions about the weather… and one of them may be… where does it occur?

The short answer is in the troposphere. It is the lowest level of the atmosphere. And this is where weather forms.

This is where most of the mass lies in the atmosphere or about 75% of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The troposphere is from Earth’s surface to 10 km or 6.2 miles high. This also translates to 33,000 feet above sea level. And at 33,000 feet this is where you can find commercial airplanes flying at their highest (or following the jet stream).

First two layers of the atmosphere. Courtesy: UCAR

The height of this level in the atmosphere does vary depending on where you are in latitude. If you’re along the equator then the atmosphere will be higher when compared to the polar regions. It also depends on the season. In the summer, you can expect heights to be higher.

This means that temperatures play a role in the heights at which weather can occur. This could partly be due to the reason that thunderstorms grow high into the atmosphere in the summer (in addition to more moisture/humidity).

The troposphere also changes in pressure and temperature the farther you are above sea level.

Temperatures decrease with height (get colder) and pressure also decreases (meaning less air, or harder to breathe).

Because of pressure changes and temperatures decreasing (and variations of the sun with uneven heating) the atmosphere changes and this creates different air masses that are continuously changing and providing all of the weather features such as wind, rain, and other weather features.

This does begin to get into the water cycles, which we will discuss that in a future blog post.

Blue sky in the troposphere at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Regardless, there is a lot of water vapor. Nearly 99% of the water vapor is kept in troposphere when compared to the entire atmosphere. There are also particulates in this layer and this leads to the reason of why clouds form. And you can get many different kinds. Some of the lowest level ones are cumulus clouds. Then we work our way up in the atmosphere to cirrus. These are typically made from ice crystals. These often times looks wispy. Cumulus are more like cotton balls.

This is only scratches the surface, and maybe this should’ve been my first post (too late now) because the troposphere really does ‘make’ all of the weather. And by that I mean, it is all contained in this little piece of the atmosphere. It might be tiny, but it has a lot of power and can disrupt nature by producing hurricanes and tornadoes and everything else you see in that big blue sky.

Advertisements