The stratified variations in temperature were deduced from the behavior of sound waves transmitted through the atmosphere, which travel faster in warm air than in cold air. Weather balloons carrying electronic equipment are launched to ascertain conditions in the stratosphere; information on this atmospheric layer is also acquired from earth-orbiting satellites.
Within the stratosphere at altitudes of 12 to 30 mi (19-48 km) is the ozone layer. Its capacity to intercept most of the sun's ultraviolet rays is fundamental to the maintenance of life on the earth. Without this filtering effect, the sun's full radiation would destroy animal tissue, but sufficient ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth to support the activation of vitamin D in humans. Elevated temperatures found in the ozone layer result from its absorption of radiant energy.
Measurements of Antarctica's ozone layer have registered a consistent seasonal "hole," or thinning, in the layer above the South Pole since 1985, and since then similar thinnings have been found over other areas of the world. There is evidence that the ozone is being broken down by chlorine atoms that are released when sunlight breaks up substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Montreal Protocol and its amendments now ban these substances and have set time limits on the production of others that may also affect the ozone layer.
Layer of the atmosphere that is located above the troposphere. The stratosphere extends from a lower boundary of about 11 mi (17 km) altitude to an upper boundary (the stratopause) at about 30 mi (50 km). The ozone layer is a part of the stratosphere.
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The stratosphere is the second major layer of Earth's atmosphere, just above the troposphere, and below the mesosphere. It 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 border of the troposphere and stratosphere, the tropopause, is marked by where this inversion begins, which in terms of atmospheric thermodynamics is the equilibrium level. The stratosphere is situated between about 10 km (6 miles) and 50 km (31 miles) altitude above the surface at moderate latitudes, while at the poles it starts at about 8 km (5 miles) altitude.
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 (see temperature inversion); the top of the stratosphere has a temperature of about 270 K (−3°C or 26.6°F), just slightly below the freezing point of water. 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 10 km in temperate latitudes, in the lower reaches of the stratosphere. They do this to stay above any hard weather. 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 ridge 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.
How will the stratosphere affect climate change? Changes in stratospheric chemistry and circulation associated with ozone recovery may affect the patterns of future climate change.(ATMOSPHERE)
Jun 15, 2007; The recent projections of climate change considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (1), which focus on...
Downward Wave Coupling between the Stratosphere and Troposphere: The Importance of Meridional Wave Guiding and Comparison with Zonal-Mean Coupling
Dec 01, 2010; ABSTRACT The nature of downward wave coupling between the stratosphere and troposphere in both hemispheres is analyzed...