Basic WX Training #1 – Levels of the Atmosphere

Basic WX Training #1 – Levels of the Atmosphere


The atmosphere is a fluid body which extends from the Earth's surface to a variable height of about 600 miles and consists of several layers of gasses, water, and aerosols.

Levels (lowest –> highest)


  • Extends from the surface to 8-14.5 km (5-9 mi)
  • About 90% of the atmosphere's mass is contained in this level
  • Contains nearly all water-based weather



  • Extends to about 50 km (≈30 mi)
  • Contains the ozone layer



  • Extends to about 85 km (53 mi)
  • Meteors are burnt in this layer



  • Extends to about 600 km (372 mi)
  • Aurora borealis occurs in this layer
  • Satellites in Low Earth Orbit are positioned in this layer



  • No set boundaries are defined, but this layer extends (albeit "faintly") out to about 10,000 km (6,200 mi)

References / Sources

Rauber, Robert M., et al. Severe and Hazardous Weather: An introduction to high impact meteorology. 5th ed., Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, 2017.

Zell, Holly. “Earth's Atmospheric Layers.” NASA, NASA, 2 Mar. 2015,

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