Earth's Atmosphere Layers For kids
The Earth's Layers of Air
Teaching Kids About the Earth's Surrounding Layers of Air
The Earth's Atmosphere
Like the three layers—crust, mantle, and core—found inside the Earth, the outer area around the Earth also has layers. These are measurable areas that hang around above the Earth's surface and into the transparent air, each having their own temperatures and effects.
As Back to School Activities start to come into play, the simple fascination with the world around us may land at the forefront of this school year's Earth Science studies. Among the many things about the Earth we often ponder, the air has to be the most important of all. The earth's atmosphere has five distinct layers—Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, and Exosphere—of air that support, protect, and one that remains unstudied for the most part.
A fun project and an easy to read "Earth Air Table" will be found along with simple to understand earth science information. Today we will embark on defining each of the "Earth's Air Layer's" and their reason for hanging around; also discover why the Mesosphere is referred to as the "ignorosphere" by some scientists. Let's get started!
The Earth's Atmosphere
The word "atmosphere" (from the Greek "atmos," or breath, and "sphaira," ball) refers to the gas that surrounds any planet or star. Earth's atmosphere, which is held in place by Earth's gravity, is made up of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, small amounts of other gases, and a little bit of water vapor—in other words, what we call "air." Our atmosphere gives us a protective barrier from the sun's ultraviolet radiation and a cushion against the changing extremes of temperature day to day.
EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE: TROPOSPHERE
Earth's First Layer of Air: Troposphere
Greek for "tropos," meaning turning or change.
Closest to the Earth, starting as close as just above the surface of the Earth and extending as high as 60,000 feet up, you will find the Troposphere. This is where we live everyday of our lives. Because all of the other layers are pressing down on the troposphere due to gravity, this is also the layer of Earth's atmosphere that contains the greatest amount of pressure. The majority of our weather systems are found within the troposphere, which gets colder the higher up it goes. Eighty percent (80%) of the Earth's atmosphere is found in this layer, which is why it sustains life so well, and because it also has the greatest concentration of oxygen of the five layers.
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EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE: STRATOSPHERE
Earth's Second Layer of Air: Stratosphere
Greek for "stratus," meaning to stretch or extend.
The second layer to Earth's atmosphere is the stratosphere, which stretches out to about 160,000 feet above the Earth and contains the ozone layer, which is just about 50,000-115,000 feet above the Earth's surface. The bottom part of the stratosphere has an almost constant temperature, however this layer (unlike the troposphere) gets hotter and hotter the higher it goes. You will see commercial airliners flying in the bottom part of this layer of Earth's air to avoid all of the turbulence and bad weather found in the highest parts of the troposphere.
EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE: MESOSPHERE
Earth's Third Layer of Air - Mesosphere
Greek for "mesos," meaning middle.
Extending from around 160,000 feet to 285,000 feet, the mesosphere is the coldest of the five layers of Earth's atmosphere—more cold than the coldest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica (-129°F!). This freezing cold layer is the biggest protector of the Earth when it comes to meteorites: most meteors burn up when they enter this part of Earth's atmosphere. Not very much is known about the mesosphere because it begins just a little higher than the maximum altitude allowed for aircraft, but lower than the minimum altitude for rocket ships and other spacecraft. Because of the limiting factors to this layer, the mesosphere has not been explored very much at all, causing some scientist to call this layer the "ignorosphere."
EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE - LAYERS OF AIR
MEASURING (above Earth's Surface)
ATTRIBUTES OF LAYER
Extends as high as 60,000 feet
Most weather systems are in this layer; gets colder as it goes higher; 80% of the atmoasphere's mass is in this layer.
Extends as high as 160,000 feet
Contains the ozone layer; lower part of layer stays a constant temperature; layer increases in heat at the higher levels: airplanes fly in the lowest regions.
Extends from 160,000 feet to 285,000 feet
Coldest of atmospheric layers; protects earth from meteors; little more is known about of this layer; nick-named "ignorosphere."
Extends from 285,000 feet to 400,000 feet
Gets hotter the higher it goes; empty of matter; contains the ionosphere; the Aurora Borealis are formed here.
Extends more than 6,000 MILES into space
Only the lightest gases are found at this layer; most satellites orbit in this layer.
EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE: THERMOSPHERE
Earth's Fourth Layer of Air - Thermosphere
Greek for "thermos," which means hot.
Right above the mesosphere, the thermosphere is about 285,000 feet to over 400,000 feet. This layer of Earth's air gets increasingly hotter as it goes farther away from the Earth's surface. Even though it is so very hot (temperatures can get as hot as 27,000°F!), it is ultimately empty of any matter. Because of the lack of matter here, a normal thermometer would read the temperature to be way below zero. This layer also contains the ionosphere, which is the part of the atmosphere that gets ionized by the sun's solar radiation. It is also the area where auroras like the Aurora Borealis, or "Northern Lights," are created.
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT THE EARTH'S LAYERS OF AIR?
EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE: EXOSHERE
Earth's Fifth Layer of Air - Exosphere
Greek for "exose," meaning outer or exterior.
This is the highest region of the Earth's atmosphere, and extends more than 6,000 miles into space. At this level, the last level before outer space, the only gases that can float this high have to be the lightest gases (mostly hydrogen, and small amounts of helium, carbon dioxide, and atomic oxygen). The density of these molecules is so low that there is rarely any chance that they will run into each other. With no collisions holding these molecules back, they are able to escape Earth's gravitational pull and gracefully drift off into outer space. The exoshpere is also where you find most of the worlds satellites to be orbiting.
Completing the "Earth Atmosphere Project" Below
Below you will find a colorful and fun project dealing with the Earth's Atmosphere. It is designed in four easy to complete sections, each offering a different task. After discussing or reading the article, print and hand out the project worksheet. It is self explanatory and makes a great classroom project as well as an interesting homework project. In either case, to get the most from the project, a discussion around the the topic of the Earth's Layers of Air would be helpful.
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