Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: April 25, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963893 | Print ISBN: 9781412958783 | Online ISBN: 9781412963893 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Jill S. M. Coleman
ON THE BASIS of thermal characteristics, the atmosphere is normally subdivided into four major vertical layers: the troposphere, stratosphere, mésosphère, and thermosphere. The troposphere makes up the lowest of these layers, extending from the surface to a global average height of 7.5 mi. (12 km.). Coined in 1908 by French scientist Leon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort, the name troposphere is derived from the Greek word tropos, meaning to turn, mix, or change. The term aptly describes the extensive vertical mixing and stability changes of this layer, which generates clouds, precipitation, and other meteorological events. For this reason, the troposphere is commonly referred to as the weather sphere. The depth of the troposphere is relatively thin, yet it contains approximately 80 percent of the atmosphere s mass. Because the atmosphere is compressible, air molecules are more compact closer to the surface, thereby increasing the density and pressure of the air at ...