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Lower Atmosphere
1. Extension and composition
- vertical
- horizontal
- components
* Worksheet 1
* Worksheet 2
2. Greenhouse, light & biosphere
3. Ozone and nitrogen oxides

Lower Atmosphere


Different landscapes - the horizontal extension

The troposphere is much more than just a smooth shell around a plane sphere. The surface, the landscape is rough and structured. Imagine the height of the troposphere - about 11 km in temperate regions. Then consider that the depth of the oceans is between 2 and 6 km, here and there even deeper, that high mountains reach altitudes of 3-6 km, some even more. This is about half of the height of the troposphere. The troposphere is the layer of the atmosphere which is strongly influenced by the surface of the Earth.



The troposphere

1. The troposphere - a very structured room
author: Elmar Uherek



Different landscapes

Have a look on the Earth and the two American continents below and try to explore a little bit our planet:
Look up the numbered places in an atlas! What is the landscape like? Is the climate dry or wet? In which latitudes it is dry, where it is wet? To which climate zone do the places belong? Which temperature do you expect for the winter? Which for the summer? How much precipitation do you expect?
The troposphere is in touch with many different landscapes and climate zones: dry deserts, snowy mountain peaks, humid rain forests, ...not to forget: 71% of the contact area is water - the oceans.


Dhaulagiri Himalaya

2. Mountains reaching deep into the troposphere
The Dhaulagiri, (8167 m) is higher than the troposphere at the poles. The photo shows a view across the Tibetan Plateau (about 5000 m)
source: NASA Earth Sciences and Image Analysis


America from space

3. Our planet Earth viewn from space
author: Reto Stockli, Nazmi El Saleous, and Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, NASA GSFC
In order to see the detailed structure of the landscape, please click the thumbnails below (about 75 K per picture).


Here you find three series of information about the places marked on the Earth photo above: 1) A modified image from space (75 KB per image), 2) a photograph of the landscape (50 KB), 3) annual average temperature and precipitation from this place or a place nearby (10 KB).


Rocky Mountains Great Lakes US south Amazon Basin Chile

1                    2                     3                    4                     5

Locations: 1) Yosemite Park, Rocky Mountains (US) - 2) Erie Lake Area, Pennsylvania (US) - 3) Landscape near El Paso, Mexican boarder (US) - 4) Amazonian rainforest (Brazil) - 5) Atacama desert (Chile).

1                    2                     3                    4                     5


Click on the climate diagramm icon, in order to see average temperature and precipitation for the different places shown above! Please note: Summer is always in the middle, i.e. the months scale is not the same for the northern and southern hemisphere.
Source: - Bernhard Mühr


Koeppen climate map

4. Koeppen's climate map - You may find out to which climate zone the places above belong. You likely can learn more about climate zones from your geography book.


Humans population on our planet

We saw many natural landscapes from space, in photos and got an impression how their climate is. But also man contributes to the composition of the troposphere with energy release and chemical emissions. The view on the city lights at night shows, that human activity apart from agriculture is concentrated in special regions of our planet - the big urban areas.

Data: AVHRR, NDVI, Seawifs, MODIS, NCEP, DMSP and Sky2000 star catalog


citylights from space

5. The world at night
authors: AVHRR and Seawifs texture: Reto Stockli; Visualization: Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, VAL, NASA GSFC
Please click to enlarge! (95 K)


6. Imagine the size of land (brown), water (blue) and our country
Please click to enlarge! ( 5 K )


How big is the area covered by our troposphere?

People sometimes think, if there are unusual cold or warm periods, too much rain or less snow in our country for a few days or weeks, that climate changes. But does it really have any global relevance for the climate if such unusual events take place in our country? How big is e.g. Poland compared to the area of our planet?
Let's have a look:
Surface of the Earth: 510,000,000 km2 (29.2% land, 70.8% water)
Surface of Poland: 312,000 km2
The Earth surface is 1637 times bigger
Here you can see this relationship (land = brown, water = blue, Poland = red) in a rectangle of 270,00 pixels.


Climate changes should be observed at least over a period of 30 years = 1560 weeks. If you observe unusual weather for one week in Poland, you observe it for 1/1637 of the Earth surface and 1/1560 of the time recommended. For you it may look like climate change, but from a global point of view it is often just a local and temporary exception.

What do you think, how climate changes can be observed in an objective way? Ask your parents and grand parents about the climate of their youth. Is it different from nowadays? Think about how your perception of the average weather conditions is influenced by the environment, your residence, personal feelings ...


About this page:
author: Dr. Elmar Uherek - Max Planck Institute for Chemistry -  Mainz / Germany
1. sci. reviewing: Dr. Katja Mannschreck - GAW Hohenpeissenberg - 2003-08-07
2. sci. reviewing: Dr. Gerd Folberth - Meteorological Service of Canada / Univ. of Victoria - 2003-08-10
edu reviewing:  Michael Seesing - Uni Duisburg - 2003-07-02, Dr. Yvonne Schleicher - Univ. of Erlangen-Nuernberg
last published and revised: 2004-06-12





last updated 09.07.2005 11:08:26 | © ESPERE-ENC 2003 - 2013