A study of a large number of temperature measurements in the middle atmosphere shows a much more complex thermal structure of this region than described in the U.S. Standard Atmosphere, 1976. The mesopause height which is generally assumed to be at 80 km varies between 70-100 km, often with two minima in temperature at about 70 and 100 km and a maximum between 80-85 km. By solving the energy balance equation and the equations of continuity, the physical significance of the observed thermal structure is discussed in terms of the energetics of the various regions of the middle atmosphere. It is shown that the solar u.v. radiation plays a major role only in the energy budget of the stratosphere and the lower thermosphere. The energetics of the mesosphere is primarily influenced by the dissipation of eddy energy. The temperature in this region is a good indicator of the eddy diffusivity and can be used in deriving the eddy diffusion coefficient.