Virtual Ballooning to Explore the Atmosphere

Explore the atmosphere by launching virtual weather balloons using the simulation below!

  • Explore the Troposphere allows you to take measurements in the 13 kilometers of the atmosphere directly above the ground.
  • Layers of Earth's Atmosphere allows you to investigate higher in the atmosphere.

Within the simulation, click the question mark ("?") buttons for instruction.

Consider these questions as you explore the atmosphere.


Explore the Troposphere


  • How does temperature change as you go higher up in the troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere)? Does it get warmer, colder, stay the same, or change in a more complex pattern?
  • Different types of clouds are found at different heights. Cumulus clouds usually appear within a couple of kilometers of the ground, while cirrus clouds form at heights of six kilometers or higher. Is one type of cloud warmer than the other? Would you expect to find liquid water droplets in each type of cloud, or might one of these types of clouds be made of ice crystals?


Layers of Earth's Atmosphere


  • Do temperature and air pressure change in a smooth, gradual way as your balloon flies higher? Or are there certain altitudes at which the temperature or pressure trend on the graph makes a sudden change in direction?
  • Scientists define the boundaries between different layers of the atmosphere based on sudden changes in the temperature vs. altitude and/or pressure vs. altitude graphs. How many layers of the atmosphere can you find?
  • After your balloon flights, read more about atmosphere layers at our Layers of Earth's atmosphere page.

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