The air that accomplishes all of this is composed of five major layers.
The lowest is the troposphere, which is the layer that provides most of our weather. It contains about four-fifths of the Earth's air, but extends only to a height of about 11 miles (17 kilometers) at the Equator and somewhat less at the Poles.
The name comes from a Greek word that refers to mixing. And mixing is exactly what happens within the troposphere, as warm air rises to form clouds, rain falls, and winds stir the lands below. Typically, the higher you go in the troposphere, the colder it gets.
Above the troposphere is the stratosphere. It extends to a height of about 30 miles (50 kilometers) and includes the ozone layer, which blocks much of the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.
The stratosphere is warmer than the troposphere because of the energy from the ultraviolet light absorbed by the ozone. At its base, the stratosphere is extremely cold, about -110 degrees Fahrenheit (-80 degrees Celsius). At its top, the temperature has risen back nearly to freezing.
Next comes the mesosphere. In this layer, the air temperature drops again, down to nearly -180 degrees Fahrenheit (-120 degrees Celsius) at the top. Meteors generally burn up in the mesosphere, which extends to a height of about 52 miles (85 kilometers). This is why the Earth's surface isn't pocked with meteor craters, like the moon's.
Entering Outer Space
Above the mesosphere is the ionosphere. It extends to about 430…