Vertical Distribution Of Temperature And Greenhouse Gases

3.1.1. Typical temperature profile

Temperature varies greatly both vertically and horizontally (as well as temporally) throughout the atmosphere. However, despite horizontal variations, the vertical structure of temperature is qualitatively similar everywhere, and so it is meaningful to think of (and to attempt to explain) a "typical" temperature profile. (We look at horizontal variations in Chapter 5.) A typical temperature profile (characteristic of 40° N in December) up to about 100 km is shown in Fig. 3.1.

The profile is not governed by a simple law and is rather complicated. Note, however, that the (mass-weighted) mean temperature is close to 255 K, the emission temperature computed in the last chapter (remember almost all the mass of the atmosphere is in the bottom 10 km). The heating effect of solar radiation can be readily seen: there are three "hot spots'' corresponding to regions where solar radiation is absorbed at different wavelengths in the thermosphere, the stratopause, and the troposphere. These maxima separate the atmosphere neatly into different layers.

Label Atmospheric Layer
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