The atmosphere can be divided into five layers according to the diversity of temperature and density.
(a) Troposphere :-It is the lowest layer of the atmosphere. The height of this layer is about 18 kms on the equator and 8 kms on the poles. The main reason of higher height at the equator is due to presence of hot convection currents that push the gases upward.
This is the most important layer of the atmosphere because all kinds of weather changes take place only in this layer. Due to these changes development of living world take place on the earth. The air never remains static in this layer. Therefore this layer is called changing sphere or troposphere.
The environmental temperature decreases with increasing height of atmosphere. It decreases at the rate of 1 C at the height of 165 metre. This is called Normal lapse rate.
The upper limit of the troposphere is called tropopause. This is a transitional zone. In this zone characteristics of both the troposphere and ionosphere are found.
(b) Stratosphere :-This layer lies above the troposphere and spread upto the height of 50 kms from the Earth’s surface. Its average extent 40 kms.
The temperature remains almost the same in the lower part of this layer upto the height of 20 kms. After this the temperature increases slowly with the increase in the height. The temperature increases due to the presence of ozone gas in the upper part of this layer.
Weather related incidents do not take place in this layer. The air blows horizontally here. Therefore this layer is considered ideal for flying of aircrafts.
(c) Mesosphere :-It spreads above the stratosphere upto the height of 80 kms. from the surface of the earth. It’s extent is 30 kms. Temperature goes on decreasing and drops upto – 100 C.
(d) Ionosphere :-The ionosphere lies from about 80-400 km in height and is electrically charged as short wave solar radiation ionizes the gas molecules. The electrical structure of the atmosphere is not uniform and is arranged into three layers, D, E, and F. Since the production of charged particles requires solar radiation, the thickness of each layer, particularly the D and E layers, changes from night to day. The layers weaken and disappear at night and reappear during the day. The F layer is present during both day and night. This change in height of the various electrically charged layers doesn’t effect the weather, but does effect radio signals.
The auroras also take place in the ionosphere since this is the electrically charged layer. The aurora borealis (northern lights) and aurora australis (southern lights) is closely correlated to solar flare activity.
(e) Exosphere:-This is the last layer of the atmosphere located above ionosphere and extends to beyond 400 km above the earth. Gases are very sparse in this sphere due to the lack of gravitational force. Therefore, the density of air is very less here.