The Vertical Structure of Temperatures in the Atmosphere: Lapse Rate and Tropopause Height

Dargan Frierson
University of Washington

In this lecture we'll study a fundamental feature of the Earth's climate, the rate of change of temperature with height, known as the lapse rate.
The lapse rate is strongly influenced by the presence of water vapor (and its potential to release latent heat when condensation occurs), so we will additionally introduce moist thermodynamics in this lecture. We'll also discuss what determines the height of the tropopause, which separates the weather layer of the atmosphere (the troposphere) from the stratosphere above. Finally we'll examine some expectations of how these features will change with global warming, including why temperatures are predicted to increase fastest in the tropical upper troposphere, and why the tropopause is expected to rise.

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