The thin shell of gas around our planet that we call our atmosphere is divided into several layers. While the pressure falls with increasing altitude, the temperature is more dynamic, alternately decreasing and increasing with altitude. The layers are:
- Troposphere [surface – ~12 km]
- Stratosphere [~12 – 50 km]
- Mesosphere [50 – 80 km]
- Thermosphere [80 – 700 km]
- Exosphere [700 – 10 000 km]
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Virtually all the weather happens in the troposphere and thunderstorm clouds are (mostly) confined to the troposphere. Therefore, all phenomena discussed here take place in the troposphere unless specifically stated otherwise.
- The edge of space – the Karman line – is at 100 km height, within the thermosphere
- The highest ever balloon ride and parachute jump was made by Alan Eustace in 2014: he rose up to 41.419 m, and made a safe parachute jump.
- Meteors appear in the thermosphere and mesosphere, usually between 130 and 70 km. Some have been detected as high as almost 170 km, and some penetrate do less than 20 km above the ground, well within the stratosphere.
Now that we have seen the structure of our atmosphere, let us take a look at the part of atmosphere thunderstorms (and we) live in.