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Name: Skyllar
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: IA
Country: USA
Date: Summer 2012

Is different weather caused by different layers of the atmosphere?

Hi Skyllar,

Interesting question! Most of our weather occurs in the troposphere, the lower level of our atmosphere. The troposphere contains about 80% of our atmospheric mass and 99% of all atmospheric water vapor and aerosols. The troposphere is where all the exciting weather action is. Weather patterns we see in the form of storms are largely due to warm areas and cool areas of tropospheric air colliding and creating a disturbance. Clear weather we generally see as a large mass of cooler or warmer air settling in.

There may be warming effects because of upper layer Ozone depletion, but that is a long term situation.

Hoping this helps. Peter E. Hughes, Ph.D. Milford, NH


You have asked a fairly complex question, but a very relevant one.

Most weather systems and events originate in the lowest layer of the atmosphere, called the Troposphere. However, coupling between the different layers of the atmosphere does occur, thereby involving layers above the Troposphere in what happens weather-wise near the Earth's surface.

Some examples include:

1) Thunderstorms begin and grow in the Troposphere, but can become so tall that they "overshoot" into the Stratosphere above, where they can actually grow taller more quickly and where the conditions for producing hail and anvil clouds are enhanced. Atmospheric instability conditions that can make it ripe for thunderstorms to begin and develop, either in a squall line ahead of a cold front or in a cold front, can occur at the Tropopause (separation between the Troposphere and Stratosphere), thus involving two layers of the atmosphere.

2) Cirrus clouds can form in the Stratosphere, thereby reducing the solar radiation reaching Earth, affecting the temperature and temperature gradient in the Troposphere, and thus affecting what kind of weather can develop in the Troposphere.

3) Certain chemicals that are destructive to ozone become trapped in the upper layers of the atmosphere (Stratosphere and above) for long periods of time, particularly above Antarctica, destroying ozone and thus allowing harmful ultraviolet wavelengths of light to reach the Earth.

I am sure that we could find many other examples, but these give you an idea of how different layers of the atmosphere affect each other and us weather-wise.

David R. Cook Meteorologist Climate Research Section Environmental Science Division Argonne National Laboratory

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