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Translations of Encyclopedia about Geology


Structure of the Atmosphere

The atmosphere (Greek: vapour cone) envelopes the earth like a giant protective shield. The atmosphere is attracted and trapped by the earth's gravity and follows the earth in all its rotations.

It extends to an altitude of 2400 kilometres. In view of the different processes and ratios in the air, it is divided into certain layers, or spheres.

Troposphere, stratosphere, and ionosphere are parts of the interior atmosphere, while exosphere belongs to the exterior atmosphere.

Three quarters of the atmospheric mass and virtually all humidity, however, are found in the troposphere, which is approximately 16 kilometres wide. It is the zone immediately above the surface of the earth. This is the region, where all the phenomena related to our weather originate. As a consequence of horizontal and vertical currents, the air here is strongly stirred. Ascending, the temperatures uniformly decrease. Above the equator, they fall to minus 90 degrees Celsius, and above the poles, they fall to minus 50 degrees Celsius in summertime and to minus 80 degrees Celsius in wintertime. Important weather-related phenomena occur in the lowest part of the troposphere (peplosphere).

The troposphere is followed by the stratosphere (Greek: layer). It reaches the altitude of 80 kilometres. Between these two layers, there is another layer, a few kilometres wide, which allows a horizontal exchange between the two layers. This exchange occurs in the form of strong windstorm (jet stream), traveling at a speed of up to 600 kilometres per hour. The lower portion of the stratosphere contains a very important layer as far as we are concerned, the so-called ozone layer. Ozone absorbs a major part of ultraviolet rays of the sun, which makes it vital for our survival.

The temperature of the stratosphere remains fairly constant, at approximately minus 70 degrees Celsius. The temperature of the ozone layer is slightly higher as a result of the absorbed ultraviolet rays, but on the exterior boundaries, which is called mesosphere, again decreases a falls down to 100 minus 100 degrees Celsius. The sunlight dissolves chemical compounds found in the stratosphere, releasing oxygen. This is why oxygen exists in the troposphere. The vertical equilibrating currents produce an even mixing of the gases.

The next layer, the ionosphere, is called after the electrically charged molecules, which are present here. This space cannot be described as air in the proper sense of the word. Temperature continually rises. At the altitude of 600 kilometres the temperature reaches approximately 2000 degrees. In view of the constantly rising temperatures, the ionosphere is sometimes called thermosphere.

The exosphere begins in the altitude of approximately 600 kilometres, where there are very few molecules of oxygen. This layer is important for our life because it protects us against the cosmic rays. In the magnetic field of the earth, The Van Allen Belt (which circles the earth above the equator in very high altitudes and contains radiation), captures glowing particles of the solar wind and does not let them reach us.

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