The vertical distribution of temperature was derived by use of the hydrostatic equation from pressure data obtained by recent V-2 rockets launched in New Mexico. Certain assumptions were made regarding the composition of the atmosphere from the surface to 120 km.
The computed mean temperature distribution shows a steady increase from 210°K at 15 km to 308°K at 55 km disproving the belief that an isothermal layer exists over New Mexico from 15 to 35 km. Above 55 km the temperature decreases rapidly to 180°K at 85 km where ice crystals are believed to be present from observations of noctilucent clouds. Computations between 55 and 85 km show conclusively that the decrease in temperature actually exists in this layer. The temperature then increases to 266°K at 120 km. However, an important irregularity occurs near 100 km where the temperature decreases slightly. In this region, a transition layer exists where molecular oxygen dissociates into atomic oxygen. The decrease in temprature is believed to be caused by the corresponding change in molecular weight involved in the dissociative process. The effect of seasonal and latitudinal variations of pressure of the upper atmosphere on the mean temperature distribution are considered.
A comparison with other investigations of the distribution of temperature with height showed marked similarities except for the upper layers of the atmosphere above 90 km.