Stratosphere Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

The Earth has an atmosphere made up of 5 layers, and the stratosphere is its second layer. Come learn about the stratosphere, how high up it is, why most clouds don't form there, and some other cool facts about this part of our atmosphere.

What is the Stratosphere?

Imagine getting on a big jet plane to go on vacation. You are really excited and can't wait to start your trip! The plane taxis down the runway and, before you know it, you are in the air. After a few minutes, you are so high up you can't see the ground very well and are gliding smoothly above the clouds. But you are on an even bigger adventure than you realize because you are flying in the stratosphere!

The stratosphere is the second layer of our atmosphere
The stratosphere is the second layer of our atmosphere

The Earth's atmosphere has layers, like stacking 5 different flavored scoops of ice cream on top of each other. The stratosphere is the second layer of our atmosphere, above the troposphere.

The bottom of the stratosphere moves up and down, the way a wave on the ocean rolls, depending on where on Earth you are and what season it is. It can be as low as about 5 miles off the ground and reaches up to about 31 miles high.

The stratosphere is the white layer above the orange layer of the troposphere
The stratosphere is the white layer above the orange layer of the troposphere

Though you might not notice it, the air you breathe every day has a lot of oxygen in it. But up in the stratosphere, there isn't much oxygen and the air is much thinner and calmer.

Jets cruise in the lower part of the stratosphere because the ride is smoother. It's easier to drink your soda while zipping through the smooth stratosphere than when you travel through bumpy turbulence in the troposphere.

Strange Clouds

There isn't much moisture in the stratosphere, which means you won't find many clouds there either, since most clouds need moisture to form. But there is one special kind of cloud, called polar stratospheric clouds, which are found toward the bottom of the stratosphere.

Polar stratospheric clouds
Polar stratospheric clouds

These clouds only form in the winter near the North and South Poles, and when the temperature in that part of the stratosphere is about 108 degrees below zero!

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