The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and the Albuquerque Box

Good evening everyone!

October 4th, 2014 Mass Ascension

Welcome back to Wildcard Weather!

The biggest hot air balloon festival in the world, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, is this week and I have some pictures! I was able to make it to the balloon park this past weekend and got some pictures from the Saturday Mass Ascension and Sunday night Glow.

Mass Ascensions occur at seven n the morning because the winds are light. Glows occur at sunset and both allow for some fantastic pictures. Each had hundreds of balloons and were amazing experiences.

But…. before the awesome pictures, how about we learn one tiny little thing. It has to do with why Albuquerque is such an ideal place for ballooning. The answer more than just the large amount of open space, its a wind pattern called The Albuquerque Box.

The Albuquerque Box

You’ll have to excuse my crude MS Paint skills, but you can imagine why the ability to land where you took off would be a great benefit to the balloon pilots. Not only would you not need a chase vehicle racing across the city to retrieve the balloon, but you would not need to worry about finding a safe landing spot.

The Valley wind phenomenon is similar to sea breezes. It is a daily wind pattern formed by temperature differences.

Valley Wind

At sunrise the night condition is still in effect. Land surfaces radiate their heat more efficiently than the air. Thus they cool quicker at night and create a temperature difference. The colder air up the hillsides becomes more dense than the air at the bottom and a downhill wind forms. This downhill winds is very shallow, evident in only the first few hundred feet above the surface. Also known as a drainage wind, it strengthens overnight and dissipates a couple hours after sunrise.

Look at this morning’s balloon sounding:

This is a Skew-T plot, created from the data gathered by this morning's weather balloon. The wind barbs in a Skew-T plot point to where the wind is coming from. As you can see, wind through most of the atmosphere is coming from the west, but close to the surface it is coming from the north. Today may not be a true "box" setup but that wind near the surface is the drainage wind.

This is a Skew-T plot, created from the data gathered by this morning’s weather balloon. The wind barbs in a Skew-T plot point to where the wind is coming from. As you can see, wind through most of the atmosphere is coming from the west, but close to the surface it is coming from the north.

Unfortunately, today was not a true “box setup. The drainage layer was pretty thick and I saw the balloons travel south until they found a landing spot. For the Albuquerque box to form you’d need the barbs around 700 mb (or 3000 m) to be from the south or southwest. For more on weather balloons check out my post on them from two years ago.

For more information about the Albuquerque box, as well as a full climatology report on the Balloon Fiesta, check out this great page by NWS – Albuquerque.

And now some more pictures!

October 4th, 2014 Mass Ascension

Yoda was a brand new balloon this year!

Yoda was a brand new balloon this year!

The tourist penguin was my favorite balloon.

The tourist penguin was my favorite balloon.

"When Pigs Fly" was a crowd favorite.

“When Pigs Fly” was a crowd favorite.

So were "The Bees". Here is Momma Bee and Poppa Bee kissing. Baby had already taken off this morning.

So were “The Bees”. Here is Momma Bee and Poppa Bee kissing. Baby had already taken off this morning.

More balloons inflating for takeoff.

More balloons inflating for takeoff.

From the October 5th Glow.

From the October 5th Glow.

Another great glow picture. The light you see inside the balloons is from the flame used to heat the air.

Another great glow picture. The light you see inside the balloons is from the flame used to heat the air.

I hope you all enjoyed the pictures! Don’t forget to follow on Twitter @wildcardweather

~Wildcard

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