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Atmospheric Structure

             The gaseous area surrounding the planet is divided into several concentric spherical strata (31k jpeg) separated by narrow transition zones. The upper boundary at which gases disperse into space lies at an altitude of approximately 1000 km above sea level. More than 99% of the total atmospheric mass is concentrated in the first 40 km from Earth's surface. .
             Atmospheric layers are characterized by differences in chemical composition that produce variations in temperature. .
             Troposphere .
             The troposphere (14k jpeg) is the atmospheric layer closest to the planet and contains the largest percentage of the mass of the total atmosphere. It is characterized by the density of its air and an average vertical temperature change of 6 degrees Celsius (C) per kilometer. .
             Temperature and water vapor content in the troposphere decrease rapidly with altitude. Water vapor plays a major role in regulating air temperature because it absorbs solar energy and thermal radiation from the planet's surface. The troposphere contains 99 % of the water vapor in the atmosphere. Water vapor concentrations vary with latitudinal position. They are greatest above the tropics, where they may be as high as 3 %, and decrease toward the polar regions. .
             All weather (23k jpeg) phenomena occur within the troposphere, although turbulence may extend into the lower portion of the stratosphere. Troposphere means "region of mixing" and is so named because of vigorous convective air currents within the layer. .
             The upper boundary (18k jpeg) of the layer ranges in height from 8 km in high latitudes, to 18 km above the equator. Its height also varies with the seasons; highest in the summer and lowest in the winter. A narrow zone called the tropopause separates the troposphere from the next highest layer called the stratosphere. Air temperature within the tropopause remains constant with increasing altitude. .
             Stratosphere .
             The stratosphere (22k jpeg) is the second major strata of air in the atmosphere.

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