The troposphere is the lowest portion of Earths atmosphere, and is also where nearly all weather takes place. It contains approximately 75% of the mass and 99% of the total mass of water vapor. The average depths of the troposphere are 20 km in the tropics,17 km in the mid latitudes, the lowest part of the troposphere, where friction with the Earths surface influences air flow, is the planetary boundary layer. This layer is typically a few hundred meters to 2 km deep depending on the landform, atop the troposphere is the tropopause, which is the border between the troposphere and stratosphere. The tropopause is a layer, where the air temperature ceases to decrease with height. Most of the phenomena we associate with day-to-day weather occur in the troposphere, by volume, dry air contains 78. 09% nitrogen,20. 95% oxygen,0. 93% argon,0. 04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. Air also contains an amount of water vapor. The chemical composition of the troposphere is essentially uniform, with the exception of water vapor. The source of vapor is at the surface through the processes of evaporation. Thus the proportion of water vapor is normally greatest near the surface, the pressure of the atmosphere is maximum at sea level and decreases with altitude. This is because the atmosphere is nearly in hydrostatic equilibrium. The temperature of the troposphere generally decreases as altitude increases, the rate at which the temperature decreases, − d T / d z, is called the environmental lapse rate. The ELR is nothing more than the difference in temperature between the surface and the tropopause divided by the height. The reason for this difference is that the ground absorbs most of the suns energy. Meanwhile, the radiation of heat at the top of the results in the cooling of that part of the atmosphere. The ELR assumes the atmosphere is still, but as air is heated it becomes buoyant, when a parcel of air rises, it expands, because the pressure is lower at higher altitudes. As the air expands, it pushes the surrounding air outward. As energy transfer to a parcel of air by way of heat is very slow, such a process is called an adiabatic process
Image: Endeavour silhouette STS 130
Diagram showing the five primary layers of the Earth's atmosphere: exosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, and troposphere. The layers are to scale. From Earth's surface to the top of the stratosphere (50km) is just under 1% of Earth's radius.