Coldest Temperature in Atmosphere; Elevation
Date: Spring 2012
At approximately what elevation does the coldest temperature occur in the atmosphere?
The atmospheric temperature, humidity, pressure and other parameters change with the specific altitude etc. However, an average called the U.S. Standard Atmosphere (1976) is an average of a large number of measurements. This is used so that even though there are changes, atmospheric scientists can at least use a common “atmosphere”. Although computing this average is pretty complicated, it provides a common baseline for calculating various atmospheric parameters. You can find tabulations and graphs in various references – for example, AIP Physics Desk Reference, or on any number of web sites – Search the term “U.S. standard atmosphere 1976”. While it varies from actual data, it provides a common baseline for various computations.
The coldest temperature occurs at the top of the Mesosphere,
at 80 to 95 kilometers height.
David R. Cook
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory
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Update: June 2012