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The troposphere is the lowest portion of Earth's atmosphere. It contains approximately 75% of the atmosphere's mass and 99% of its water vapor and aerosols.

The average depth of the troposphere is approximately 17 km (11 mi) in the middle latitudes. It is deeper in the tropical regions, up to 20 km (12 mi), and shallower near the poles, at 7 km (4.3 mi) in summer, and indistinct in winter. The lowest part of the troposphere, where friction with the Earth's surface influences air flow, is the planetary boundary layer. This layer is typically a few hundred meters to 2 km (1.2 mi) deep depending on the landform and time of day. The border between the troposphere and stratosphere, called the tropopause, is a temperature inversion.[1]

The word troposphere derives from the Greek: tropos for "turning" or "mixing," reflecting the fact that turbulent mixing plays an important role in the troposphere's structure and behavior. Most of the phenomena we associate with day-to-day weather occur in the troposphere.[1]


Pressure and temperature structure


The chemical composition of the troposphere is essentially uniform, with the notable exception of water vapor. The source of water vapor is at the surface through the processes of evaporation and transpiration. Furthermore the temperature of the troposphere decreases with height, and saturation vapor pressure decreases strongly as temperature drops, so the amount of water vapor that can exist in the atmosphere decreases strongly with height. Thus the proportion of water vapor is normally greatest near the surface and decreases with height.


The pressure of the atmosphere is maximum at sea level and decreases with higher altitude. This is because the atmosphere is very nearly in hydrostatic equilibrium, so that the pressure is equal to the weight of air above a given point. The change in pressure with height therefore can be equated to the density with this hydrostatic equation:[2]


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