Breakdown: How the Stratosphere protects the Earth

BREAKDOWN: How the Stratosphere protects the Earth

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - In a previous Breakdown we talked about the troposphere and in this new Breakdown we are going to talk about the next level of the atmosphere, the Stratosphere.

“Strat” means layer, and this layer of the atmosphere has its own set of layers within its layer. Confused yet? Well let’s break it down.

This layer about 8 to 30 miles high and contains about 15% of total mass of the atmosphere. All weather stops at the top of the troposphere, so this level of the atmosphere is essentially cloud free.

There are no storms or any turbulence here to mix the air up, so cold and heavy air is at the bottom of the layer while warm and lighter air is near the top.

That means that when you see a tall thunderstorm with an anvil cloud, it is likely that the anvil cloud has reached the bottom of the stratosphere. At that level, atmospheric convection stops because rising cloudy air parcels are no longer warmer than their environment, since stratospheric air is relatively warm.

This means it slowly warms as you move through the layer, unlike the troposphere that quickly cools with height. The unusual temperature structure is caused by the absorption of sunlight by ozone.

The Ozone Layer helps protect the Earth from the ultraviolet rays (UV) rays from the sun. In fact, according to Earth’s Energy Budget, our ozone layer absorbs most of the UV radiation the sun sends us.

Very few airplanes can fly as high as the stratosphere because the air is so thin that there is not enough lift to keep the aircraft supported.

Life as we know it would not be possible without this layer of protection, that is why the Stratosphere and Ozone Layer are so important.

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