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As altitude increases, air pressure decreases due to the decreased weight of air above. With less pressure, the density decreases. More than three-fourths of the air is concentrated within a layer averaging about 7 statute miles thick, called the troposphere. This is the region of most "weather," as the term is commonly understood.
The top of the troposphere is marked by a thin transition zone called the tropopause, immediately above which is the stratosphere. Beyond this lie several other layers having distinctive characteristics. The average height of the tropopause ranges from about 5 miles or less at high latitudes to about 10 miles at low latitudes.
The standard atmosphere is a conventional vertical structure of the atmosphere characterized by a standard sea-level pressure of 1013.25 hectopascals of mercury (29.92 inches) and a sea-level air temperature of 15° C (59° F). The temperature decreases with height at the standard lapse rate, a uniform 2° C (3.6° F) per thousand feet to 11 kilometers (36,089 feet), and above that remains constant at -56.5° C (-69.7° F). The jet stream refers to relatively strong (greater than 60 knots) quasi-horizontal winds, usually concentrated within a restricted layer of the atmosphere. Research has indicated that the jet stream is important in relation to the sequence of weather. There are two commonly known jet streams. The sub-tropical jet stream (STJ) occurs in the region of 30°N during the northern hemisphere winter, decreasing in summer. The core of highest winds in the STJ is found at about 12km altitude (40,000 feet) in the region of 70°W, 40°E, and 150°E, although considerable variability is common. The polar frontal jet stream (PFJ) is found in middle to upper-middle latitudes and is discontinuous and variable.Maximum jet stream winds have been measured by weather balloons at 291 knots.