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Air content and atmospheric pressure vary at different layers, and air suitable for use in photosynthesis by terrestrial plants and breathing of terrestrial animals is found only in Earth's troposphere and in artificial atmospheres.The atmosphere has a mass of about 5.15 three quarters of which is within about 11 km (6.8 mi; 36,000 ft) of the surface.Because the general pattern of the temperature/altitude profile is constant and measurable by means of instrumented balloon soundings, the temperature behavior provides a useful metric to distinguish atmospheric layers.In this way, Earth's atmosphere can be divided (called atmospheric stratification) into five main layers.The exosphere is located too far above Earth for any meteorological phenomena to be possible.
The atmosphere of Earth protects life on Earth by creating pressure allowing for liquid water to exist on the Earth's surface, absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention (greenhouse effect), and reducing temperature extremes between day and night (the diurnal temperature variation).
Layers drawn to scale, objects within the layers are not to scale.
Aurorae shown here at the bottom of the thermosphere can actually form at any altitude in this atmospheric layer.
It extends from the mesopause (which separates it from the mesosphere) at an altitude of about 80 km (50 mi; 260,000 ft) up to the thermopause at an altitude range of 500–1000 km (310–620 mi; 1,600,000–3,300,000 ft).
The height of the thermopause varies considerably due to changes in solar activity.