With this temperature at altitude calculator, you can easily find an approximation of the temperature 🌡 at any given altitude.

Have you ever wondered what the temperature at cruising altitude is? ✈ Or why does temperature decrease with higher altitude? Then, we have the perfect tool for you!

In a few paragraphs, we will answer all those questions and more. We will also give you some examples while showing and explaining the temperature vs. altitude chart.

Keep reading to learn more!

How does altitude affect temperature?

Most people think that the higher you go within Earth's atmosphere, the colder it gets. Well, they're right... kind of. In reality, the atmosphere is a complex thermodynamic system that needs constant monitoring through satellite or radar information to produce accurate predictions.

One of the models describing Earth's atmosphere is the ISA, International Standard Atmosphere model, which utilizes geopotential altitude to obtain the temperature.

According to this model, temperature either increases, decreases, or remains constant as you climb up in the atmosphere, contrary to pressure, which only decreases with higher altitude (and so does air density). See the temperature vs altitude section for a full explanation.

Why use geopotential altitude?

Geopotential altitude is used instead of geometric altitude (distance above a surface) because gravity on Earth is not exactly the same everywhere. It varies with height (Newton's law of gravity), latitude (due to centrifugal forces), longitude (uneven distribution of Earth's mass), and some other parameters.

Because of that, geopotential altitude is a more accurate variable to quantify the properties of large masses of air. It's described by the following formula to account for gravity variations:

Zg(h)=Φ(h)g0Z_{g}(h) = \frac{\Phi(h)}{g_{0}}

where:

  • Φ(h)\Phi(h)Geopotential energy at hh; and
  • g0g_{0} – Gravitational acceleration at mean sea level.

💡 Don't worry! You don't need a Ph.D. in meteorology to use the temperature at altitude calculator. You can just input the normal altitude, and there will be little difference in the results (more significant at higher altitudes).

Temperature vs. altitude chart analysis. Why does temperature decrease with higher altitude?

As we said, this calculator is based on the ISA model, but what does the model actually say? Let's take a look at the temperature vs altitude chart:

Temperature vs altitude chart through several atmospheric layers.
Temperature (°C) vs altitude (km) based on the ISA model (1976).

At first look, it seems that asking 'Why does temperature decrease with higher altitude' wouldn't be precise. As the graph shows, temperature either decreases, remains constant, or increases with higher altitude. Let's break down each part of the graph to learn how altitude affects temperature:

  • Troposphere (0 to ∼12 km, or 0 to ∼7 mi): this is the lowest part of Earth's atmosphere, and it's heated by the Earth's surface. So, as you go up, you get further away from the surface and the temperature decreases by about 6.5 °C per km, or ∼39 °F per mi.
    • Tropopause (between the troposphere and stratosphere): in this layer, the temperature remains constant at -55 °C, or 131°F.
  • Stratosphere (∼12 to ∼51 km, or ∼7 to ∼32 mi): on the contrary, in this layer, temperature increases by 1 to 2.8 °C per km, or 33 to 35 °F per mi. UV absorption by the ozone layer produces this heating effect.
    • Stratopause (∼48 to ∼51 km, or ∼30 to ∼32 mi): here, the temperature is again constant at ∼-1 °C, or ∼30 °F.
  • Mesosphere (∼51 to ∼86 km, or ∼32 to ∼53 mi): this part of the atmosphere is challenging to study. Aircraft can't reach high enough, and atmospheric drag renders satellites unusable. Here, the temperature decreases by 2 to 2.8 °C per km, or 34 to 35 °F.
    • Mesopause (∼86 km, or ∼53 mi): the coldest place on Earth. Here, temperatures lie around -87 °C, or -124.6 °F and can be as low as -100 °C, or -148 °F.

💡 Now you know how altitude affects temperature! Feel free to use Omni's temperature at altitude calculator to find an approximation for input altitudes between 0-90 km based on the ISA model.

Example using the temperature at altitude calculator: temperature at 35000 feet altitude

Let's see how we can obtain the temperature at cruising altitude/temperature at 35000 feet altitude:

  1. First, we need to write down the temperature and altitude at your location.
    • Let's assume the temperature to be 59 °F and we are at 2640 ft high.
  2. Now, we need to find where 35000 ft lay on the temperature vs. altitude chart. As we can see, a 35000 ft altitude is within the troposphere where temperature decreases with altitude.
  3. We subtract the altitude at our current location from 35000 ft and multiply the result by 0.00356.
    • 35000 - 2640 = 32360.
    • The result of the product will be the temperature difference: 32360 * 0.00356 = 115.2 °F.
  4. Since the temperature decreases in this layer, we subtract 115.2 °F from the temperature at 2640 ft to get the temperature at our desired altitude.
    • 59 - 115.2 = -56.2 °F.
    • Temperature at 35000 feet : -56.2 °F.
    • Remember: this is for 59 °F at 2640 ft, not 59 °F at sea level.
  5. Or simply input the temperature at sea level in our tool, and it will automatically get the result for you. The temperature at altitude calculator even has its own chart!

Summary

So far, in the temperature at altitude calculator, we've covered:

  • How does altitude affect temperature?;
  • Why does temperature decrease with higher altitude?;
  • What is the temperature at cruising altitude?; and
  • Insight into the ISA model with the temperature vs. altitude chart.

If you still have questions, check the FAQ section where we added some more answers to understand the subject thoroughly.

FAQ

How do you calculate temperature with altitude?

To calculate temperature with altitude:

  1. Write down the current temperature at your location.
  2. Convert the height (from your current altitude) at which you want to obtain the temperature to m or ft.
  3. Multiply this number by:
    • 0.00650 if using the metric system; or
    • 0.00356 if using the imperial or US customary system.
  4. Subtract the result from the temperature in step 1. This number is the temperature at your chosen altitude.

Why does temperature increase with altitude through the stratosphere?

Temperature increases with altitude through the stratosphere because the ozone layer present there absorbs most of the UV radiation coming from the Sun. This layer acts as a shield from incoming ultraviolet radiation.

How does temperature change with altitude in the troposphere?

In the troposphere, temperature decreases by 6.5 °C per 1000 m, or ∼3.56 °F per 1000 ft. Since this layer is heated directly by Earth's surface, the higher it extends, the colder the air within the layer gets.

Why does temperature decrease with altitude?

In the troposphere, temperature decreases with altitude because this layer of the atmosphere is heated through direct contact with Earth's surface. Because of that, the farthest you are from the ground, the colder it gets.

What is the farthest layer of the atmosphere?

The exosphere is the farthest layer of Earth's atmosphere. It extends from the thermosphere up to 10,000 km and gradually fades into outer space. It's primarily composed of hydrogen and helium.

How cold is it 1000 feet up?

55.44 °F. At 1000 feet, the temperature drops by 3.56 °F compared to the surface temperature. Assuming 59 °F at sea level, the temperature at 1000 feet would be 55.44 °F.

Luciano Mino
Temperature at sea level (T0)
°F
Altitude (h)
ft
Temperature chart
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