After so many extreme drought years, I find it exhilarating to be under the weather. No, not that kind, but under my rain umbrella with my rain boots on, exploring shiny wet surfaces of manzanita limbs, water drops as they create spherical worlds on leaves, and the mesmerizing ripples of drops on a puddle! We are all under the weather.
We sit under its atmospheric layers, or as NASA calls it, ‘a multi-layered cake.’ We breathe it in and out about 22,000 times a day as our lungs fuel us with life-sustaining oxygen. We breathe in air, then miraculously remove the oxygen and run it through our bloodstream, where it is efficiently carried off to all of our myriad tissues and organs, allowing us to function as though astonishing feats were not taking place each second that allow us to do yoga, talk and walk.
Our special planet wraps us in tender blankets of atmosphere consisting of five layers. The lowest layer, the troposphere, runs up in height to around 7. 5 miles. This fragile layer gives us our daily breath and permits plants to perform their tasks of photosynthesis and more.
Our troposphere is compressed by the atmosphere’s other layers, which weigh it down and create much of our weather in the lowest level. Most weather-formed clouds are created here in the troposphere, excluding cumulonimbus thunderclouds that can be so tall that they rise to the next layer of Earth’s atmosphere, the stratosphere. The stratosphere portion of our layer cake is located at 7. 5 miles up to 31 miles above Earth and is also known as our ozone layer, providing us with protection from harmful UV radiation from the Sun.
Next up is Earth’s mesosphere at 31 miles up to 50 miles above the Earth. Now, it begins to get colder the farther up you venture. At the 50-miles up limit is Earth’s coldest known place, with temperatures averaging minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s in this layer that rarely seen noctilucent clouds form and where the majority of meteors burn out.
The thermosphere is next up and is situated at 50 and up to 440 miles above our planet. Have you ever witnessed the beauty of the aurora borealis? The thermosphere is where the aurora borealis and aurora australis are seen at times. It’s where the International Space Station orbits Earth about every 90 minutes, traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour. Our fragile Earth’s final atmospheric layer is its exosphere, which is 440 and 6,200 miles beyond the Earth. Here in our exosphere, the atmosphere blends with the solar wind, with some particles leaking into space due to the low density of the layer. The exosphere is where the majority of Earth’s satellites orbit, according to NASA.
The Earth, in its complexity, awaits us each day and has the rewarding ability to enliven our senses, producing a bit of wonder, which can be unlike that witnessed by the person standing next to us. The sky is a weather factory where light winds invite conifer’s needles to sway to its soothing sounds, or, if it so chooses, it may ramp up and blow with fury.
Being under the weather displays the paradoxes that both inspire or terrify us. Since it touches each and every one of us, it invites us to delve further in wonder to achieve a meaningful appreciation of all of the layers of the cake that is Earth.