The Troposphere

The troposphere is the lowest layer of Earth's atmosphere. Most of the mass (about 75-80%) of the atmosphere is in the troposphere. Most types of clouds are found in the troposphere, and almost all weather occurs within this layer. The troposphere is by far the wettest layer of the atmosphere (all of the other layers contain very little moisture).

Troposphere Diagram

This diagram shows some of the features of the troposphere.

UCAR/Randy Russell

The bottom of the troposphere is at Earth's surface. The troposphere extends upward to about 10 km (6.2 miles or about 33,000 feet) above sea level. The height of the top of the troposphere varies with latitude (it is lowest over the poles and highest at the equator) and by season (it is lower in winter and higher in summer). It can be as high as 20 km (12 miles or 65,000 feet) near the equator, and as low as 7 km (4 miles or 23,000 feet) over the poles in winter.

Air is warmest at the bottom of the troposphere near ground level. Air gets colder as one rises through the troposphere. That's why the peaks of tall mountains can be snow-covered even in the summertime.

Air pressure and the density of the air also decrease with altitude upward to the tropopause, which is the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere. Because of these decrease in air pressure with height, the cabins of high-flying jet aircraft, which fly at the top of the troposphere, or often just above the tropopause in the more stable stratosphere, are pressurized.