How the atmosphere makes it possible to live on Earth

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The atmosphere doesn’t only produce weather. There’s actually a few layers that each play a role in keeping us safe and make it possible for us to live here on Earth.

The troposphere is the layer that we live in, where all the weather is and where planes fly, which is usually about seven miles high. This layer is actually the thinnest of them all, but it’s also the heaviest because it carries 80 percent of the weight of the whole atmosphere. It’s about 7-10 miles thick and where it is thicker, the air is warmer because warm air expands. If you can imagine driving from Downtown Knoxville to West Town Mall, that’s about 8 miles. So you just drove to roughly the top of the troposphere!

The stratosphere is important because that’s where the ozone layer is. Bad ozone sometimes forms down here. That’s not good. However, ozone in the stratosphere absorbs harmful ultraviolet light from the sun. Some still gets through, but without the ozone layer, we’d be in big trouble.

The mesosphere is the next layer up and this is the coldest layer. It is also where meteorites burn up. Even though the air is pretty thin up there, they burn up because the meteorites basically choke with oxygen and the friction tears them apart.

The thermosphere is the outermost layer and it consists of two important parts: the Ionosphere where we see the Aurora Borealis and the magnetosphere, which is the external limit of Earth’s magnetic field.

After that is the exosphere, which leads us into the vacuum of space.

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