Last Monday we took a look at some basic definitions in meteorology, including meteorology, the atmosphere, weather (as well as why we have weather), and climate.
Today we’re going to start reviewing the elements of weather, starting with temperature.
Elements of Weather
Temperature is a measure of the kinetic energy of all the molecules in a substance. The faster the molecules are moving, the higher the temperature. Alternatively, you can think of it the other way around; for example, the warmer a pot of water, the more the water molecules are moving (i.e., the water may eventually evaporate)…or, the colder a pot of water, the less the molecules are moving (i.e., the water may eventually freeze).
There are 3 primary temperature scales: Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin. Click here to see more on these temperature scales, including how to convert between the three.
Temperature Structure of the Atmosphere
Categorized by air temperature, there are four layers of the atmosphere:
- Troposphere – the lowest layer of the atmosphere…air temperature generally decreases with height, as the earth is better than air at absorbing incoming solar radiation (thus it is kept warmer)
- Stratosphere – above the troposphere (the boundary is known as the tropopause)…air temperature generally increases with height, as a layer of ozone efficiently absorbs solar radiation
- Mesosphere – above the stratosphere (the boundary is known as the stratopause)…air temperature generally decreases with height, for the same reason as the troposphere
- Thermosphere – above the mesosphere (the boundary is called the mesopause)…air temperature generally increases with height, as there is such a lack of air molecules (the few molecules that are there do not have to “share” as much solar radiation with other molecules, thus they become more energetic)
Come back next Monday to learn about pressure, another element of weather.