The Stratosphere: Far Beyond and Still So Close!
The stratosphere, the part of the atmosphere above the troposphere extending from about 10 to 50km, has long been ignored in the science of atmospheric dynamics: It is difficult to perform in-situ measurements if one can't physically install any devices (due to the lack of rigid ground). It is also downright lethal for both man and machine to try to perform observations at such heights, temperatures and pressures! On the other hand, the stratosphere is a place of eternal sunshine due to the virtual absence of moist dynamics. It is also stably stratified (temperature increasing with height), such that it seems much less interesting than the troposphere with its wealth of turbulent dynamics. In addition, the volume of the stratosphere is about two orders of magnitude larger than the volume of the troposphere, but only contains about 20% of the atmosphere's mass. Thus, it seems pointless to waste valuable human, mechanical, and computational resources to try and understand it better. Not so! I will show how, thanks to a few adventurous pioneers and technical advances such as airplanes and satellites, the stratosphere has become an important focus of contemporary atmospheric research. More importantly, I will show some of the reasons why this is the case, and discuss particular examples where the stratosphere has direct influence on surface climate.
Dr Martin Jucker, Postdoctoral Research Fellow