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Stratosphere

From Academic Kids

This article is about the atmospheric layer; for the hotel in Las Vegas, see Stratosphere Las Vegas.

The stratosphere is a layer of Earth's atmosphere that is stratified in temperature, with warmer layers higher up and cooler layers farther down. This is in contrast to the troposphere near the Earth's surface, which is cooler higher up and warmer farther down. The stratosphere is situated between about 17 km and 50 km altitude above the surface at moderate latitudes, while at the poles it starts at about 8 km altitude. The stratosphere sits directly above the troposphere and directly below the mesosphere.

The stratosphere is layered in temperature because it is heated from above by absorption of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Within this layer, temperature increases as altitude increases; the top of the stratosphere has a temperature of about 270 K, about the same as the ground level temperature. This top is called the stratopause, above which temperature again decreases with height. The vertical stratification, with warmer layers above and cooler layers below, makes the stratosphere dynamically stable: there is no regular convection and associated turbulence in this part of the atmosphere. The heating is caused by an ozone layer that absorbs solar ultraviolet radiation, heating the upper layers of the stratosphere. The base of the stratosphere occurs where heating by conduction from above and heating by convection from below (through the troposphere) balance out; hence, the stratosphere begins at lower altitudes near the poles due to the lower ground temperature there.

Commercial airliners typically cruise at an altitude near 10km in temperate latitudes, in the lower reaches of the stratosphere. This is to avoid atmospheric turbulence from the convection in the troposphere. Turbulence experienced in the cruise phase of flight is often caused by convective overshoot from the troposphere below. Similarly, most gliders soar on thermal plumes that rise through the troposphere above warm patches of ground; these plumes end at the base of the stratosphere, setting a limit to how high gliders can fly in most parts of the world. (Some gliders do fly higher, using wave lift from mountain ranges to lift them into the stratosphere).

The stratosphere is a region of intense interactions among radiative, dynamical, and chemical processes, in which horizontal mixing of gaseous components proceeds much more rapidly than vertical mixing. An interesting feature of stratospheric circulation is the quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) in the tropical latitudes, which is driven by gravity waves that are convectively generated in the troposphere. The QBO induces a secondary circulation that is important for the global stratospheric transport of tracers such as ozone or water vapor.

In northern hemispheric winter, sudden stratospheric warmings can often be observed which are caused by the absorption of Rossby waves in the stratosphere.


See also

es:Estratosfera fr:Stratosphre ms:Stratosphere nl:Stratosfeer ja:成層圏 pl:Stratosfera pt:Estratosfera sv:Stratosfr vi:Tầng bnh lưu zh:平流层

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