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```Layers of the Atmosphere Activity
The earth's atmosphere is 100km thick and is broken into 4 layers based on diﬀerences in composition and
temperature. In this activity you will investigate how atmospheric composition and temperature varies by
altitude and learn why these changes occur.
Instructions: Graph the relationship between altitude and air temperature. The independent variable
(Temperature) should be placed on the x-axis and the dependent variable (altitude) should be placed on the
y-axis. Give your graph a title and be sure to label your axes! The altitude range should go from 0 to
120km. The temperature range should go from -100 to +20°C. Then plot the following points and use a
straight edge to connect your points.
Altitude
0
5
10
12
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
48
52
55
60
Temperature
17
-26
-55
-58
-58
-58
-52
-47
-35
-23
-10
-2
-2
-10
-28
Altitude
70
80
90
100
110
Temperature
-60
-90
-90
-78
-32
The layers of the atmosphere are called the troposphere= layer closest to earth; stratosphere, mesosphere,
and thermosphere. The boundaries of these layers are called pauses---the places where the temperatures
stopped decreasing or increasing.
1. Find the ﬁrst place above the surface at which the temperature stayed the same. Label this spot as the
tropopause. Between the surface and the tropopause is the troposphere. Shade the troposphere red.
2. Find the second place above the surface that the temperature stayed constant. Label this the stratopause.
The altitudes between the stratopause and the tropopause contains the stratosphere. Shade the stratosphere
yellow.
3. The last place the temperature stayed constant is called the Mesopause. Label it. Below the mesopause (to
the stratopause) is the mesosphere. Shade the mesosphere green.
4. The area above the mesopause is the thermosphere. Shade the thermosphere blue.
5. Make a horizontal line at 38km and another at 50km. Label the portion in between the two lines as the
ozone layer.
6. Clouds form between 1 and 10km above the surface. Label this “weather”
Questions:
1. Based on your graph, what would be the approximate temperature of the air at the top
of Mount Washington (about 1.9 km). ________ What layer of the atmosphere is this
_________________
2. Based on the graph, what would be the temperature outside of an airplane at 9km?
_____________ What layer is this in? _______________
3. What would be the temperature at 145km?
4. Which layer would be responsible for our weather?__________________________
5. At what altitude is the coldest air? _____________________What layer is this in?
______________________
6. Which layer is the thinnest (covers least altitude)? __________________What is its
actual thickness? ___________
7. Which layer is thickest? _____________________What is its actual thickness in terms
of height?
8. Describe how temperature varies with altitude in the troposphere (describe the trend)?
________________________________________________________________________
Predict why this trend happens: ___________
______
9. Describe how temperature varies with altitude in the stratosphere?
____________________________________________________________
Predict why this trend happens:
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
10. Why do you think the mesosphere decreases in temperature with altitude?
11. Calculate the average drop in temperature for the ﬁrst 12 km of Earth’s atmosphere.
(diﬀerence between starting temperature and temperature at 12km divided by 12km)
Show how you are setting up your calculation.
12. SAVE FOR CLASS: Complete this chart describing the atmosphere’s four layers.
Include the composition, temperature trend in each layer and a brief explanation for what
causes the trend.
.
Layer
Composition
Temperature Trend
Explanation for Trend
Troposphere
Stratosphere
Mesosphere
Thermosphere
```
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